Welcome to Collinwood, a promising-looking heist comedy with a better-than-average ensemble cast, gets bogged down by a ponderous, dull script. Despite some funny moments, long stretches of boredom prevent the film from reaching its mark.
A remake of the 1958 Big Deal on Madonna Street, Welcome to Collinwood was directed by twin brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, and was one of a half-dozen films released in 2002 produced by the team of Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney. Indeed, its cast is drawn variously from previous Soderbergh/Clooney pictures, as well as from the "companies" of directors David Mamet and Paul Thomas Anderson.
Set in a seedy, fictional, suburb of Cleveland, OH, "Collinwood" stars Luis Guzman as a thief who gets sent to jail, leaving behind a plot for a heist that's later executed by a bumbling group of ne'er-do-well criminals, played by Sam Rockwell, Isiah Washington, William H. Macy, and Michael Jeter (in his final film role prior to his death earlier this month). The ubiquitous Patricia Clarkson shows up as Guzman's wife, and David Warshofsky plays a cop; Clooney himself appears in two scenes, apparently for no reason other than to get the film a distribution deal.
While the bumbling antics of the thieves are funny in parts (they have their own lingo, such as "malinksi" and "bellini"), the inspiring moments are mostly rehashed from better movies (like the French original, as well as Bottle Rocket and Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run). The Russo brothers borrow liberally stylistically and thematically from that other brother pair, the Coens, but it's clear that they're imitators. And Rockwell's presence only reminds us of how inferior this movie is to his other 2002 collaboration with Soderbergh and Clooney, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
A big weakness of the film is that the two most interesting characters, Guzman's thief and Warshofsky's cop, essentially disappear halfway through the film, and we're thus stuff with such duds as Jeter's inarticulate thief and Macy's baby-doting dad (probably his weakest character ever). The visual style is also uninspired, seemingly a half-hearted combination of Soderbergh and the Coens. Not even an amusing score by Rushmore genius Mark Mothersbaugh can redeem it.
Collinwood isn't devoid of funny moments - there's a pair of charming romances (between Andrew Davoli and Gabrielle Union, and Rockwell with Jennifer Esposito), yet both seem extraneous from the main plot, making the whole heist part stop in its tracks.
The filmmakers had the right idea with Welcome to Collinwood, but the execution just isn't there.