Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead

Andy Garcia, Gabrielle Anwar, Christopher Lloyd, Christopher Walken

Directed by Gary Fleder
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 0
Community: star rating
5 0 0
April 18, 2001

There is no way to pin down this relentlessly quirky and inventive thriller. Hilarious, horrific and hopelessly moonstruck, Denver dodges every formula that might label it as a hand-me-down Pulp Fiction. Director Gary Fleder and screenwriter Scott Rosenberg, in strong feature debuts, team up with a blast of a cast to cut through the usual clichés. It's a perversely comic movie ride into the wild blue of crime and punishment.

Take Jimmy the Saint, the retired mob fixer played by Andy Garcia in a career-revitalizing performance. Educated in a seminary, Jimmy never killed for his sadistic, wheelchair-bound boss, the Man With the Plan (Christopher Walken at his spookiest, which is saying something). The silver-tongued Jimmy, with impeccable manners to match his suits, is a true romantic — a Don Quixote in a soul-sick world. He picks up Dagney (the luscious Gabrielle Anwar) at a bar by telling her she's a girl who "glides." Dagney is hooked by his pretty words, and Garcia, who gives a dynamite performance rich in romantic yearning, makes you understand why.

Ever since he quit the Man, Jimmy has been running a video service that allows dying people to tape afterlife advice for their relatives. Business isn't booming, so Jimmy agrees to perform one last job for the Man, who wants Jimmy to help his addlebrained, child-molesting son, Bernard (Michael Nicolosi), by discouraging a guy who's moving in on Bernard's girl.

The plan is to scare the guy off — that's all. For aid, soft-touch Jimmy calls in four hard-luck thugs from the old days. Franchise (William Forsythe) lives in a trailer park. Pieces (Christopher Lloyd in a stellar portrayal of dignity under siege) is a porn-movie projectionist. Easy Wind (Bill Nunn) exterminates insects. And Critical Bill (a killingly funny and frightening Treat Williams) is a short-fused psycho beyond all rehabilitation.

Critical Bill is instrumental in botching the plan, which ends in murder and causes the Man to seek revenge by hiring notorious hit man Mr. Shhh — just casting Steve Buscemi in the role is inspired — to wipe out Jimmy's buddies. Much brutality ensues in action and language. The Man spews out some vicious invective, notably at the expense of gays. "They get you interested in saving the rain forest," he teases Jimmy, "and next thing, you're chugging cock." But Jimmy persists in his role of savior, turning Denver into an acute morality tale that lifts the bar on crime as film entertainment.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Madame George”

    Van Morrison | 1968

    One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

    More Song Stories entries »