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MRQE Top Critic

The Great Train Robbery

(review...)

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Following the successful lead of Grumpy Old Men were such films as Waking Ned Devine (Grumpy Old Irishmen) and Space Cowboys (Grumpy Old Astronauts). The Crew is next in line with a likeable, recognizable cast of senior citizens playing retired mobsters. You might call it Grumpy Old Gangsters.

2,000 Year Old Comedy

The Brick and Bats

As I recall from my liberal arts classes, the classical structure of a comedy progresses from order to chaos at every turn. When things can’t get any worse, all the loose ends are tied, often through a deus ex machina plot device. Finally, the comedy ends with a wedding.

The Crew proves that, in thousands of years of culture, there is nothing new under the sun.

The Crew

Bobby (Richard Dreyfuss) leads his crew of four geriatric gangsters. Back in their day they could extort, beat, and intimidate with the best of them. Now they’re in their golden years, and retired in Miami Beach. Their idea of a good time is getting to Sol & Pepper’s Deli by 5:30 so they can get the free soup with dinner.

Burt Reynolds, showing more silver than ever, plays “Bats” — the man with the short temper whose favorite tool is a baseball bat. Dan Hedaya plays “The Brick,” whose name refers not to his favorite weapon, but to his mental abilities. Finally, Seymour Cassel plays “The Mouth” so named because he hardly ever says anything.

The Scheme

These four guys got an ocean view apartment years ago, back when it was cheap. Now everybody wants to live in Miami Beach and prices are skyrocketing. Every day they get asked by young, rich, tan couples whether there are any openings in their building.

With the rent going up again, the four are not sure they can afford to stay (no retirement plan, you see). They devise a scheme. If they can make it look like there was a murder in the lobby of their building, it’s sure to drive away newcomers and drive down rents.

Their plan works, but it introduces new problems, which require new schemes. The new schemes work, but they introduce further problems, and so on, following the classical structure of a comedy.

Lightweight Fun

This film is extremely lightweight. It never takes itself seriously, and it doesn’t go out of its way for a joke. It’s not an uproarious comedy like There’s Something about Mary.

Fugeddaboudit.
— Richard Dreyfuss as Bobby

Instead, its humor comes mostly from the charisma of its characters. For example, Cassel is a scene stealer as The Mouth. Because he rarely talks, I found myself watching him more closely for his silent reactions and nonverbal commentary. And Dan Hedaya gets some very funny lines as the gangster who his friends call “half a moron.”

But the best thing about The Crew is its quick, concise pace. It runs 85 minutes, which is just right. No joke runs too long, no subplots linger, and the movie ends before you can get tired of the “Grumpy Old Gangsters” concept.