Movie Review – Jerry and Tom (1998)

A movie is such an organic entity. It could have great actors, a great script, and a creative director, but still, it might not fit the way it’s supposed to.

An important factor is the “background” of similar works with which we cannot avoid comparing. “Citizen Kane” is fine as a classic, but can you watch “Citizen Bob – The Sequel”?

That’s the problem with “Jerry and Tom”. It looks like a movie Quentin Tarantino wrote with David Mamet from an idea from the Coen Brothers. “Pulp Fiction” was fresh and electrifying. But “Jerry and Tom,” the umpteenth iteration of a similar concept, feels as tired and old as the used cars the main characters swap.

To make up for that, director Saul Rubinek resorted to some very creative scene transitions that are fine the first few times you experience it. But since EACH scene changes to the other in the same way, you soon expect it as if expecting a scene change in a play. At that point, management begins to draw so much attention to itself that it begins to dominate everything else. And that’s the problem with Rubinek’s brilliant but straightforward steering. It makes it difficult to suspend our disbelief throughout the company.

J&T are two hit men who pretend to be used car salesmen during the day. The movie is a collection (not even a “chain”) of episodes in which someone is invariably killed, but only after a long and witty give and take to the Tarantino. Throughout the film, we have no idea why the victims are killed or who they are, as the focus is relentlessly on our narcissistic antiheroes.

In this way, the film raises an ethical question that it does not claim to answer in any way: the morality of the homicide (of course!). The director asks us to “just enjoy” one scene of carnage and bloodshed after another for the sake of all that “witty conversation” between two psychopaths who really should be locked up somewhere forever.

The forced ending doesn’t solve this core problem either. In that sense, this film, packed with linguistic fireworks and directing gunpowder, is essentially an empty exercise in “entertainment for entertainment” because it lacks a human heart.

Performing across the team, starting with Joe Mantegna (Tom) and Sam Rockwell (Jerry) and including Maury Chaykin (Billy), Ted Danson (The Guy Who Loved Vicki), Charles Durning (Vic) and William H. Macy (Karl ) it’s pretty good. Rockwell in particular is amazing as veteran Tom’s goofy protégé. It’s almost as good as “Matchstick Man.” But all that acting can’t help save this sinking project.

5 stars out of 10 for all the smart talk about corpses. But if you’ve seen “Pulp Fiction” or “Blood Simple”, you’ve already seen it with one exception: the director tried to make this a “sweeter” movie, if you can imagine. Do you like castor oil with one or two sugars?