Safe Men (1998)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Comedy, Comedy of Errors, Buddy Film, Farce  |   Release Date - Aug 7, 1998 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

From exploding polyester pants and fake ass cheeks to grotesque bar mitzvahs and Jewish gangster schtick, Safe Men is full of comedic elements that may not endear it to good-taste gatekeepers or folks who prefer their humor politically correct. For everyone else, it's a riot -- a tongue-in-cheek combination of the heist flick, the romantic comedy, the Gen X ensemble piece, and the comedy of manners. First-time writer/director John Hamburg turns in a script as incisive as it is funny, deconstructing the very concept of manhood by exposing the foibles of an oddball assortment of well-observed masculine types. From the shy nerd to the wacky slacker, the imposing gangster to the crook with a heart of gold, Hamburg introduces any number of stereotypes, then both undermines and enriches them with clever details and unexpected casting. Paul Giamatti and Harvey Fierstein strike comic gold as, respectively, a Mob henchman with drawstring genie pants and an inferiority complex and a droll, big-stakes fence with a discount showroom and a lethal lisp. Meanwhile, the subtle Sam Rockwell and the zany Steve Zahn dig deep into their screen personae and show us how they tick. Mark Ruffalo doesn't get as much screen time, but his perpetually abashed safecracker is a study in comic economy. The bit players, too, are all consistently fine. Of course, this is the sort of movie where you know the hapless protagonist is going to endure all sorts of humiliations before being rescued by the girl of his dreams -- wry, wonderful girl-next-door Christina Kirk -- in the final reel. But Safe Men is so full of great character acting, surreal humor, and genuine chemistry that any such contrivances fail to matter. Hamburg would go on to become an in-demand Hollywood screenwriter, but this little ensemble piece is truer, and funnier, than anything else on his resume so far.