Viking Night: Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead
By Bruce Hall
September 23, 2015
It’s a lot of fun to watch a movie set in the city where you live. You get to point out all the familiar landmarks, marvel that you once stood in the same spot as someone famous, and quietly pat yourself on the back when you notice something they’ve got wrong.
But the best part about it is that sometimes, they make a movie in some place other than New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. I don’t know about you, but I get sick of the way Hollywood tends to ignore the rest of the country, as if the whole thing is just a vast suburb of those three cities. Sure, they film a lot in Vancouver - when they need a cheap stand in for New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.
Well guess what? People occasionally fall in love with Gabrielle Anwar or get brutally murdered by Steve Buscemi in Denver, too, and it's about damn time someone acknowledged that. But you shouldn't watch Things to do in Denver When You're Dead just because I'm telling you to. You should also watch it because it's a pretty decent movie starring a lot of actors I really love. As for Denver itself, it's really terrible and you totally shouldn't move here. You'll hate it.
Tell your friends.
Moving on, Andy Garcia is more than the obvious love child of Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. He's also a pretty good actor, and the glue that holds this whole thing together. As retired mobster Jimmy the Saint, he seems a little out of place running a video message service called Afterlife Advice. It allows the terminally ill (or perhaps suicidal) people to tape messages to their loved ones, or perhaps an expecting parent to record words of wisdom for their children to view at a later time. It’s not a bad idea, and Jimmy’s natural used car salesman charm fits the role well, as he’s able to present a potentially macabre idea as the most natural thing in the world.
But the business is failing, probably because it’s so potentially macabre. And this is when Jimmy is summoned by his old boss, known only as The Man with the Plan (Christopher Walken). The Man requires a favor, and it concerns his batshit crazy son, Bernard (Michael Nicolosi). Bernard is still pining for his ex-girlfriend Meg (Sarah Trigger), who has taken up with a new man in California, and his mental state continues to deteriorate in her absence. It comes to light that the Boyfriend (Josh Charles) is heading to Denver for a visit. The Man needs Jimmy to intercept the Boyfriend and put the fear of God into him, chasing him off and clearing the way for Bernard to swoop in and win her back.
It’s a simple plan - so simple that Jimmy decides he needs four more guys to pull it off. So, instead of just driving out to the Kansas border with an aluminum bat and waiting for the Boyfriend to show, Jimmy puts the band back together, and recruits his old team out of retirement. Big Bear (William Forsythe), Easy Wind (Bill Nunn), Pieces Olden (Christopher Lloyd), and Critical Bill (Treat Williams) join Jimmy’s road trip, successfully completing Phase One of the plan by locating the Boyfriend. Unfortunately, the Boyfriend is a little smarter than he looks, and the plan goes off the rails in a big way. I won’t spoil the details except to say that Critical Bill is crazier than a wet bag full of rabid cats - and in accordance with Pesci’s Law, you should never, EVER let the Crazy Guy be part of the team.