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CHAIN OF FOOLS (2000)
A black comedy about the search for three stolen coins, "Chain of Fools" is uneven but shows definite signs of promise. Helped by an ace American cast, the L.A.-based Swedish collective Traktor has come up with a solid movie that's both amusing and entertaining. Story is told in a way that makes ample use of its creators' experience in award-winning commercials (for Volvo, Levi's and Sony). Pic, which world premiered in Sweden on March 3 and is set for Stateside release later this year through Warners, looks likely to reap a satisfying B.O. haul, with the presence of Salma Hayek a definite draw.
Kresk (Steve Zahn) is a hairdresser who's down on his luck. His wife, Karen (Lara Flynn Boyle), is divorcing him, adding insult to injury by going on a vacation with their marriage counselor.
Kresk's first customer of the day turns out to be a gangster, Avnet (Jeff Goldblum), who's in possession of three ancient coins, stolen in a robbery in which two guards were killed. When Kresk accidentally overhears his phone conversation, Avnet attacks him, and, in the confused struggle that ensues, Kresk accidentally stabs Avnet in the neck with a pair of scissors, killing him.
Panic-stricken, Kresk seeks the help of a friend, Andy (David Cross), the sadistic leader of a Boy Scout troop. The two decide to dump Avnet's body in Karen's empty apartment -- and then hunt down the valuable coins.
They find the coins in Avnet's apartment, and as they are leaving they narrowly miss the appearance of an underage hit man, Mikey (Elijah Wood).
Flashbacks limn the events -- how the wealthy Bollingsworth (Tom Wilkinson) masterminded the coin robbery that went wrong when Avnet, against orders, killed the guards and fled with the booty.
Bollingsworth hired Mikey to kill Avnet, but the hit man now reports that the coins seem to be in the possession of Kresk.
Enter investigating cop Kolko (Hayek), a former Playmate of the Month who's the perpetual butt of her colleagues' jokes. She and Kresk quickly warm to each other.
The plot becomes really complicated when Bollingsworth tries to commit suicide and is saved by Kresk.
Script hardly carves out much original ground and is more amusing than wildly funny. More importantly, pic manages to keep a balance between humor and violence, with the latter never gory.
Flashbacks are efficiently used, for both clarification and mystification, and help to make the film surprisingly unpredictable.
Recap: Kresk, (Steve Zahn) struggling barber, recently divorced by his wife stumbles upon a secret when a gangster comes into his barbershop. This gangster, Avnet (Jeff Goldblum), was involved in a high profile theft last night involving three ancient Chinese coins. He thinks Kresk must die, fortunately for Kresk, Avnet stumbles and get Kresk's scissor in his neck. Now Kresk has a body to take care of. Unfortunately for Kresk, Kresk is not the brightest boy in town. And worse, neither is his friend Andy (David Cross), full time scout, who he enlists for help. But as time goes, and things get worse, more and more people get involved, but Kresk is determined that those coins will change his life. For the better, he hopes.
Comments: An unusual comedy/crime movie handling a lot of different subplots that runs at the sides of each others with a lot of intersections. What makes this unusual and imaginative is that what happens in a subplot we are not currently following has an impact how the story goes at the next intersection. At the same time we get the full coverage in time with a frequent use of flashbacks and jumps in the timeline. Still, it was never any problem to follow.
The movie has a really big cast, and a lot of the names on the list are known. Goldblum delivers a solid performance as usual, Zahn is a great choice for Kresk. The best impression however I think I got from Elijah Wood (Mikey) who portrays a teen hit-man with finesse. I think it is the best performance from him I have ever seen. The director team Traktor has done a great work in their movie debut and I hope I will see more work from them like this one.