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Big Deal on Madonna Street
the DVD
A MUST for film lovers!

. "Welcome To Collinwood"

This is a comedy of errors ripped from the pages of the classic of all time, "Big Deal on Madonna Street" (1958). Yes, the names have been changed. In fact, the country has been changed (Italy to Cleveland, Ohio). And, yes, the terms that the gang members use to signify "a big deal" has been changed. But what's not changed and what's not credited is what this picture owes to that Vittorio Gassman starring comedy masterpiece.

The material travels well, partly because "Welcome to Collinwood" is well cast. But the translation suffers from a too broad and telegraphed approach, losing an edge by us getting an idea of what to expect before the punchlines. But the whacked out comedy is designed for amusement and it manages to pull off the essentials.

Cosimo (Luis Guzman) screws up a car heist and lands in jail, a place he'll give anything to get out of. But, as strong as that desire is going in, it grows to a point of desperation when his cellmate, facing death row, reveals a "Bellini", a masterpiece heist because of his personal knowledge of some flaws in a building that now houses a jewelry establishment with a full safe.

So, Cosimo, a street hood who can only dream of a true "Bellini", convinces his girlfriend Rosalind (Patricia Clarkson) to find a "Mullinski", which is someone desperate enough for money to take the rap for him. As she puts the offer before someone she knows fits the bill, she finds that he, impressed as he is about the "Bellini", has a reason why he can't do time, but knows someone else who would do it but he can't but he knows someone and... the gang of desperate nincompoops is formulated, all looking for their piece of the action.

Far sighted enough to realize that none of them can break a safe, they consult with safecracking "expert" Jerzy (George Clooney). You can get an idea of the reality this movie comedy dumps overboard by what he comes up with as a safecracking method. We are to believe that the basis of his successful criminal exploits amounts to a circular drill in the side of the safe. Estimated time for the job: 6 hours. What, we haven't seen other expert movie safecrackers? The level of incredibility is too unsophisticated for words.

Along with the antics we get a bit of love developing between Pero (Sam Rockwell) and the maid at the target facility; and Riley (William H. Macy), a failing business man who just lost his wife and is taking devoted care of his infant son while trying to ensure his future. Michael Jeter as Toto, the geriatric breakin artist adds his contribution to the ensemble of nut cases and the height of visual jokes is that direct steal from "... Madonna Street" when the gang breaks the wall down. It works every bit as well.

One would wish for a very prominent display of gratitude for that originating material, declaring this movie an homage to it. Such debt, if it appears at all, is sadly so buried as to be missing in action, somewhat nullifying the laughs that this version pulls off.

The world that these misfits inhabit may not truly be Cleveland, but it is one to visit for 86 minutes of mood lifting.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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