- THE TWO FACES OF MCKINNON
Next in our series on the Great Truisms of Cinema is this: Any movie in which a single actor plays both a given character and his or her identical twin is pretty much guaranteed to be a large, steaming pile of dog poopy.
Right up until the second the credits rolled on director Ray McKinnon's “Randy and the Mob,” I thought the statement above was infallible — that it possessed its own inescapable, black hole gravity, sucking down the hack screenwriters of the world along with anyone foolhardy or desperate enough to make a movie with them. How long has it been since anyone even attempted the old “I'm my own twin!” plot in a major motion picture? Does the 1998 remake of “The Parent Trap” starring Lindsay Lohan count? THAT turned out well.
As I said, however, “Randy and the Mob” might finally be the film that manages to crack the old “twins” chestnut in a new way. Funny, earnest and heartfelt, full of fine performances, it's a great way to spend a couple of hours.
Director McKinnon plays the title character, Randy Pearson. A would-be entrepreneur, Randy's disastrous personal life is only rivaled in suckage by his shipwrecked business dealings, including a failing, small town gas station and barbecue joint. As the film opens, we learn that Randy has gotten desperate enough to seek a loan from “alternative lenders” — mafia-connected thugs from Atlanta. Unable to pay back the loan sharks and receiving letters from the IRS, Randy reaches out to his mafia contact Franco (Paul Ben-Victor), who convinces his bosses that Randy's air-conditioned storage units would be a nice, backwater place to store hot merchandise coming up from Miami if only they can keep the property from getting seized by the Feds. To that end, they agree to send in a fixer to clean up Randy's business holdings. The fixer turns out to be Tino Armani (Walton Goggins), a near-robotic Bubba-type/mob enforcer. In short order, Tino becomes Randy's unlikely savior, doing everything from counseling Randy's depressed wife Charlotte (Lisa Blount) to making the barbecue shack a hit again by putting salmon on the menu. Before long, however, things take a left turn, and Randy has to reach out to his estranged gay brother Cecil (also Ray McKinnon) for help when the murderous Mafiosi come calling.
Onscreen, McKinnon, Blount and Goggins show the same flair that made their short film “The Accountant” an Oscar winner, turning what might have been just another lackluster Southern farce into a film with real heart. Though all the films McKinnon has written and directed feature an emotionless character, first-timers will undoubtedly find Goggins' robot/philosopher mobster Tino charming and wholly unique — even if he is sort of a retread of McKinnon's similarly emotionless Accountant. And, though I thought I'd never say it, there is real chemistry in the relationship between Cecil and Randy — a testament to McKinnon's talent as both a director and a character actor.
In short, while “Randy and the Mob” isn't Oscar caliber, it is a fun and funky little film with a real sense of where it comes from. In a world of cookie cutter flicks that seem to be set just south of nowhere, that in itself is worth the price of a ticket. Check it out.
— David Koon