(2000)3Brian J. DillardThis thoughtful, accomplished debut from Irish writer/director Myles Connell boasts a quietly nuanced lead performance from Christopher Walken, a nicely realistic alternative to heist-flick bombast and a healthy dose of working-class dignity. Mixing low-key humor and even lower-key true crime details into his character study of an ex-con struggling to do the right thing for his family, Connell heightens the audience's emotional stakes by providing an all-too-realistic explanation of the tiny indignities that make crime seem like a viable alternative to the straight life. Walken invests Victor with equal amounts of hope and resignation, his idiosyncratic features for once employed not for their flamboyance but for their uncommon humanity. Connell's measured pacing and laconic script give The Opportunists an unflashy grace, but they also sometimes leave the audience with too little to go on. Pop survivor Cyndi Lauper is soft and steely in exactly the right measure as Sally, the girlfriend who wants to help if only Victor would let her, but we'd need one more really solid scene between them to connect the dots and make the relationship ring true. Vera Farmiga gets more screen time and a better chance to make her mark as Miriam, Vic's generous but guarded grown-up daughter. So does Peter McDonald, in a deliberately enigmatic turn as Victor's extremely long-lost cousin, Michael. Overall, there's a sense that Connell could have used a little less restraint in his storytelling. However, given the over-the-top theatricality with which turn of the century filmmakers have chosen to treat the true crime genre, from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to Blow, The Opportunists stands out as solid proof that genre fare need not leave out the real world -- and, in fact, seems far more compelling when it doesn't.
In this downbeat drama, a reformed criminal finds himself led back to a life of crime. Fresh out of prison, former safecracker Victor Kelly (Christopher Walken) wants to support his daughter Miriam (Vera Farmiga) and Aunt Dierdre (Anne Pitoniak) with his new career in auto repair. But Victor's deep in debt, and he's in no position to say no when he and his Irish gangster cousin Michael (Peter McDonald) hook up with two security guards (Jose Zuniga and (Donal Logue) looking for someone who can open a safe. The Opportunists was written and directed by Myles Connell in his feature debut; the supporting cast includes pop singer Cyndi Lauper as Victor's girlfriend.