The Opportunists (review)

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Take this spring’s Where the Money Is, give it a dose of weary reality, and you’ll come up with this compact and understated treasure of a film. First-time writer/director Myles Connell takes us deep into the lives of hard-luck, working-class guys who turn small-time crooks more out of sheer, stupid desperation than anything else. Queens auto mechanic Vic (Christopher Walken: Sleepy Hollow) is bouncing checks all over the place — rent on his garage, his elderly aunt’s nursing home — but he’s a stubbornly proud man who refuses to accept a loan from his girlfriend, Sally (Cyndi Lauper). Instead, he lets himself be roped into a minor heist, at a local security company, by Pat (Donal Logue: The Patriot), night watchman at the place, and Michael (Peter McDonald: I Went Down), Vic’s cousin visiting from Ireland — Vic’s help is especially welcome because he used to do this sort of thing quite a lot. Connell gets rough-and-tumble life in the boroughs detail-perfect, from Vic’s dirty fingernails and Pat’s junker of a car to the grungy neighborhood bar Sally owns all the way up to the headstrong and independent women — like Vic’s daughter, Miriam (Vera Farmiga: Return to Paradise), who grew up with a dad doing time — who know how miserable life is when the men they love are in prison. It’s the rare film that acknowledges that even a successful crime isn’t worth the effort, and that the price the criminal pays is a high one: eternal wariness and mistrust and decaying self-esteem. Life on Vic’s edge has left him psychologically beaten up, and the bitter bite of Connell’s film is that Vic’s got no way out of it.

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