' ' Cinema Romantico: True Romance (The Legend Of Kevin Corrigan)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

True Romance (The Legend Of Kevin Corrigan)

The totally awesome Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago is in the midst of a two month long dedication to Quentin Tarantino in which they are screening Q.T.'s entire canon and a few of his favorite films (like "Rio Bravo" and "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein") and last night they screened 1993's "True Romance", a film Q.T. wrote that Tony "How Many Changes Of Film Stock Can I Squeeze In?" Scott directed.

It is an operatic, gloriously cliched and cornball, insanely violent ode to Americana with Clarence Worley (Christian Slater), a cheeseburger loving, comic book shop employee taken to consulting with an imaginary Elvis (and I often wonder how many "True Romance" fans know Woody Allen actually did that 20 years earlier in "Play It Again, Sam" when he consulted with an imaginary Humphrey Bogart), who, on the night of his birthday, indulges in a triple kung fu feature alone where he runs into a 1950's blonde pinup in the present day named Alabama (Patricia Arquette) with whom he suddenly finds himself in a monogamous but heavily passionate romance. Of course, it turns out she is a hooker who was paid to be there. Of course, she's only been a hooker for four days so she still has the requisite heart of gold. Of course, she wants out of the hooking game so, of course, Clarence will track down and brutally kill Alabama's pimp (Gary Oldman, going so far over the top it somehow almost comes back around to be subtle) and when Clarence gathers Alabama's things he winds up with the wrong suitcase which, of course, is packed full of cocaine - cocaine that is, of course, stolen from the mob. So Clarence and Alabama get hitched and light out for, of course, La-La Land, intending to sell the cocaine for maximum profit as they are trailed by the mob before eventually getting mixed up with a fast talking movie producer and the police and, of course, Balki Bartokomous. Whew.... And none of that even has anything to do with the best scene in the movie which is the infamous tete-a-tete between Christopher Walken and the late Dennis Hopper.

And yet watching it last night what I found myself contemplating didn't have anything to do with any of the people I just mentioned.

My friend and fellow movie fan Brad once sent out an email to myself and a few of our other friends asking us to name the actors who always make us happy when they turn up in a movie. And no one makes me more happy to see than the character actor Kevin Corrigan.

I'm sure in "The Departed" everyone was most happy to see Leo or Jack or Matt Damon or Marky Mark or maybe Alec Baldwin or Martin Sheen or possibly even Anthony Andersen but me? I was ecstatic when Leo's ne'er-do-well Cousin Sean turned out to be Kevin Corrigan, the cousin that caused Jack Nicholson to bellow the line "Are you gonna stop doing coke deals with your jerk-off cousin?!" Of course! Who else but Kevin Corrigan could be the jerk-off cousin?!

"Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist" was a movie I hated, absolutely hated, but when Kevin Corrigan turned up eating a sandwich in the Port Authority, and even though he didn't even say a single word, well, it was a moment of happiness during an otherwise dreary experience.

To summarize Corrigan's typical work one must turn to the former Fox sitcom "Grounded For Life", primarily average but occasionally transcendent, when Corrigan, playing uncle to his brother's daughter Lily, gives the following advice.

Corrigan: "Aim low. That way you won't be disappointed."
Lily: "What happened to being whatever I want to be?"
Corrigan: "Nah. That's crap."

Corrigan is no one's idea of a leading man. The best way to describe his appearance might be to say Utterly Unconventional. His jet black hair is often at odds with itself, his walk lanky and uninterested with getting anywhere, his voice a lethargic monotone suggesting someone who perpetually just woke up. The only film in which he was really ever a leading man was the bleak comedy "Kicked in the Head" (1997) and for his review the esteemed Roger Ebert actually opened with these words: "'Kicked in the Head' is one of those movies where you wish the story was about the supporting characters." Ouch. Talk about an indictment of your leading man.

Strangely, while he specializes in sad-sack slackers, his tiny role in "True Romance" is that of Marvin, or "Mad Dog", as he is called at one point, an apparent bad-ass mafioso who carefully tends to his hair - his entire Method appearing to be nothing more than using a comb - and quotes Robert DeNiro. What's even more strange is that in my review for "Big Fan" on this very blog back in February I wrote of Corrigan in regards to his performance as the protagonist's best friend: "(I)n a movie world where I ran things he would be Brad Pitt."

As we know another member of "True Romance's" sterling supporting cast is a young Brad Pitt, playing entirely against type as a stoner slacker who spends every second of his few scenes on the couch.

So....Corrigan is the guy with the cool nickname and the nice hair and the expensive clothes and Pitt is the nappy haired do-nothing on the sofa? The whole point of "True Romance" is that it is outlandish and mythological, a universe unto itself, and out there in that universe it seems that Kevin Corrigan is Brad Pitt and Brad Pitt is Kevin Corrigan.


Wretched Genius said...

In case you haven't seen it yet, The AV Club featured Corrigan in it's ongoing feature Random Roles.

Nick Prigge said...

Wow. I hadn't read that. Thank you. I especially liked where he said he hadn't seen "Bad Boys" even though he was in it. As if I needed any more reason to like this guy.