The Brooklyn Heist Julian M. Kheel

The Brooklyn Heist Julian M. Kheel
It's a difficult task for a comedy to challenge filmmaking conventions. Expectations are typically low for any direct-to-video caper marketed on the star power of Danny Masterson (That 70's Show) and Dominique Swain (Lolita). The blindsiding ambition of Julian M. Kheel's genre-blending crime caper is partly what makes it such an unexpected champion of low-budget ingenuity. On the same block in Brooklyn, three groups of criminals converge on a local pawnshop for a heist, but each group is stuck in a different genre of film. The bumbling Amateurs (Danny Masterson's Fitz and partner Dino) shuffle through a grainy, '70s anti-hero, Dog Day Afternoon-inspired picture. The Sputniks exist in a black and white, Bergman-style experimental film. The Moolies (yes, there's even an introductory title and song) posture as endless stars of a Hype Williams-ribbing rap video. These seemingly disparate groupings have one thing binding them: Connie, the decrepit, hate-spewing Italian woman who owns the pawnshop. Her compartmentalizing racism is so virtuosic she could teach the characters of American History X new lingo. It'd be offensive if it didn't extend, with the utmost ridiculousness, to every human being she encounters. That prison bubble of perception is also the crux of the moral message beneath the surface of this wacky, genre-spoofing caper. Aysan Celik is the movie's biggest revelation, even with such clever and purposeful use of film stock processing as a storytelling device. As Lana, mastermind of the Sputniks, a comic genius arrives fully formed, thieving every scene with her impeccable timing, fearlessness and intensely committed deadpan. HBO geeks will get a thrill out of seeing Leon and Craig muMs Grant together again, lampooning their gangster personas from Oz. The entire cast are very aware of the unique cinematic experience they're part of, and as an ensemble, they knock out of the park with idiotic earnestness what is a very tricky comedic tone to establish and ride. Including the original ending as a bonus feature highlights some of the script's weakness of narrative purpose, though it's actually funnier and carries the same message as the final cut. Deleted scenes with optional commentary are included, along with some outtakes and a "Before and After" demo explaining the concept and process behind the genre looks. A CD-ROM accessible shooting script is included and the feature commentary track with the director, writer and Danny Masterson is as funny and playful as it is informative. This Heist is a hidden gem worth nabbing. (E1)