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comic-con episode IV
Click for full sized poster

Albino Alligator

Starring Matt Dillon, Faye Dunaway, Gary Sinise,
William Fichtner, Joe Mantegna, and Viggo Mortensen
Directed by Kevin Spacey

In the last year, I've seen a lot of actors don the director's hat for the first time. Many of them shouldn't have, because they also starred in their productions and thus lost focus of the not so easy task of directing. Kevin Spacey joins the first timers' list, and wisely took the high road by choosing not to star. His energies are totally focused, and the result, Albino Alligator, is a remarkably strong first effort.

The story, essentially seven people in a room, would make a good stage play. Three petty thieves have stolen a car, tangled with the cops, and taken refuge in Dino's Last Chance Bar. It is closing time, and there are only a handful of people in the bar. Before they know it, their situation has become desperate. Out front there are SWAT teams and agents of the ATF waiting to make an arrest. Our thieves just want to sneak out the back way, but they find there is no back way -- the bar is a Prohibition-era speakeasy in the basement of a building.

What the ATF wants with some petty thieves is one of the cleverly designed plot twists in the script by Christian Forte. His trio of criminals is designed for conflict, and the situation is not unlike the comic image of a double boiler on the kitchen stove, kicking off steam until it explodes and spews its contents all over the walls.

Dova (Matt Dillon) is the leader of the crew. He makes the decisions, he enforces his will, but he isn't very smart about what he does. He relies greatly on his older brother, Milo (Gary Sinise), who has the brains but not the gumption to lead. Last but not least is Law (William Fichtner), the muscle who has done time and who swears he will not go back in. It is easy to see why Milo and Law don't like each other, and why each battles for control over Dova's decision making process. At stake are the lives of the hostages in the bar.

In such a claustrophobic setting good actors make good writing gleam. Janet, (Faye Dunaway), who looks a decade older than the 40 years her ID says she is, works in the bar. She's got a tough lip, and Dunaway plays it for all it's worth. Janet has her own agenda, and her negotiations with Dova are charged by her desperation. Also playing important parts are Skeet Ulrich as Danny, a kid who displays a remarkable affinity for the bad guys, and Viggo Mortensen as a mysterious French-Canadian named Guy.

Setting any story in the equivalent of one room is the most difficult task a director can take on. Spacey demonstrates a great knowledge of what a film camera can and cannot do. Albino Alligator does not look like a television flick, as many first time outings do. The camera moves above and around the characters. Angles and settings within the main bar change, growing increasingly claustrophobic as the endgame approaches. The actual climax of the movie comes off a wee bit confusing, but does not detract from the rest of the film. Albino Alligator is a flick where the actors can be seen truly enjoying their work. The script gives them something to develop. The director has given them the room to work, and complements their performance with the camera work.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Albino Alligator, he would have paid . . .


Albino Aligator is a very stylish looking, gritty, and arresting film. Recommended.

Click to buy films by Kevin Spacey
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