When petty thief Cosimo is given the plan for the perfect heist from a lifer in prison--the kind of job you dream about, the kind of job that the reprobates on the block refer to as a 'Bellini'--he has to get out of jail, fast. Opportunities like this don't come along every day for the hard-luck folks who hang around the streets of Collinwood, a working class neighborhood on Cleveland's east side. What Cosimo needs is a fall guy, a 'Mullinski,' somebody who needs the $15,000 Cosimo can offer more than they need one to three years of freedom. But with Cosimo stuck in the joint, it's up to his girl Rosalind to track down a patsy. But while no one wants to do the time for Cosimo's crime, everybody seems to know a guy who will--and for a share in the Bellini, they're willing to track him down. Before long, Rosalind has five guys trailing behind her, looking to get their bungling hands on a piece of the action. Led by Pero, a very amateur boxer who schemes to get the particulars of the job from Cosimo before leaving him in the joint to rot, the group assembles itself. The motley crew consists of: photographer and frustrated artist Riley, a single father with an infant on his hands who needs a thousand bucks to spring his wife from jail; Leon, who desperately wants to secure a better life for his sister, Michelle; Basil, a handsome Italian gigolo who's as broke as a one-wheeled wagon; and Toto, a thief way past his prime who's got nothing but time.
Given the glut of recent heist pictures including those with such breathtakingly original titles as "Heist" and "The Score" you may wonder why anyone would have bothered with this one, but "Collinwood" has an eager, slapdash energy that makes it hard to be too sorry that someone did. Anthony and Joe Russo, brothers from Cleveland, where the movie takes place, write and direct with a sloppy exuberance that is sometimes hard to distinguish from incompetence, but the cast members, happily slumming, mugging and making fools of themselves, toss off some gratifyingly silly slapstick moments. The caper plot, involving a crew of very small-time crooks, is pretty much abandoned in favor of jokey anarchy, as the actors, William H. Macy and Michael Jeter, in particular, try to steal the movie, which isn't worth much, but is sometimes fun all the same. — A. O. Scott
2002-10-04 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Welcome to Collinwood