Safe Men - DVD Review

'hardly deserves its $45,000 gross and while I'm at it, I'd like my £1.50 DVD rental fee back please'

Released in 1998, Safe Men took a total US gross of just over $45,000 at the US box office, a lame attempt to recoup its estimated $1million budget. On face value it's hard to see why the film flopped; who wouldn't want to see a mistaken-identity comedy with Paul Giamatti, Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn and Michael Lerner in the leading rolls, backed up by, in particular, Mark Ruffalo? With the success of those talents in recent years it looks likely that Safe Men will find an ever increasing audience on DVD as fans hungry for more search out their prior roles. So, does it deserve this new audience? No. In fact, it hardly deserves its $45,000 and while I'm at it, I'd like my £1.50 DVD rental fee back please.

We start of with some generic comedy of embarrassment: Sam and Eddie (Rockwell and Zahn) are a failing music act, playing to half-empty public halls in exchange for food. It's not to everyone's taste but when this sort of comedy works it does work but when it doesn't, it just feels awkward and so it is here. Neither Rockwell nor Zahn seem to commit to their roles (possibly because said roles are so weak) thus completely negating the comedy of two erstwhile singers who are actually rather rubbish. Instead we've just got two people on stage who aren't trying and therefore, aren't winning. Ha-bloody-ha.

In a dialogue heavy plot development, our supposedly lovable losers meet Veal Chop (Giamatti), head man for Jewish gangster Big Fat Bernie Gayle (Lerner) who mistakes them for a couple of expert safe-crackers (Ruffalo and Josh Pais) and sets them up so that they're in his debt. Sounds funny right? Only it's not and its real crime is that it doesn't even feel like its trying to be. Sam and Eddie find themselves having to break into various locations and attempting to crack safes which should create great scenarios for a bit of slapstick here or a cameo encounter there but doesn't, instead resorting to the romantic involvement of Sam and one of their marks (Christina Kirk) and a convoluted, nonsensical plot focusing on the Stanley Cup.

The scenario screams 'missed opportunity' but based on what's on show here, by the time it finishes you'll be wondering why you were so optimistic to begin with. The only one of the central cast who does anything more than stand there looking glum is Ruffalo who... well actually, he also stands there looking glum but only because he's meant to and a scene with him and a ghetto blaster raised my one single laugh. Really quite diabolical and, at times, more arduous to watch than any comedy has any right to be.

Look further...

'Pure entertainment, really, and a lot funnier than I might have anticipated. It even ends the way everything should end: with a dance party' - Film Forager, 4/5