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‘The Con is On’ (review)

Produced by Cassian Elwes, J. C. Chandor,
Robert Ogden Barnum, Dave Hansen,
William Clevinger, Jaclyn Ann Suri,
Elliot Michael Smith

Written by Alex Michaelides, James Oakley
Directed by James Oakley
Starring Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Alice Eve,
Sofía Vergara, Maggie Q, Parker Posey,
Stephen Fry, Crispin Glover

 

Tarantino alums Uma Thurman and Tim Roth are a married pair of professional con artists/thieves.

After racking up a huge gambling debt to fearsome gangster Maggie Q, the couple hightails it to Los Angeles to swindle Roth’s ex-wife (Alice Eve) out of a ring worth over $5 million to pay back the debt.

Along the way, the thieves run into an assortment of quirky characters, including corrupt priest Stephen Fry, Eve’s wacko filmmaker husband Crispin Glover, Glover’s drug-addled assistant Parker Posey and Glover’s nymphomaniac lover, Sofía Vergara.

After a too-cutesy prologue, we’re treated to some fun, throwback-style opening titles that promise a breezy, twisty good time.

Regrettably, the fun stops there.

Roth and Thurman are game, but can’t make up for the sluggish pace, misfired humor and utter lack of surprise or suspense.

In fact, the title is very nearly a misnomer as this qualifies more as a tiresome satire of LA excess than as a frothy caper film. Weak jokes involving safe rooms and dog whisperers land with a thud, and even pros such as Posey and Vergara come across as unfunny and shrill.

Glover brings his (much-needed) customary energy and quirkiness to his role but no one seems to be having much fun after a while.

It’s almost stunningly indifferent, with most scenes just…ending, or conversely, going on for way too long, so the whole affair just lies there.

Any hopes of a clever con flick in the vein of The Sting or Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven start to evaporate well before the halfway point, with characters mostly posing, drinking and being mean to each other to very little effect.

And certainly, good films have been made satirizing LA (S.O.B., L.A. Story, etc.) but it’s a tired, worn-out subgenre that really needs an inspired, jaundiced eye to work. The Con is On just drags on and on, with obvious, boring jabs at those wacky Los Angelenos.

This movie needed a lightning pace and a sparkling wit to succeed, especially with so little going on and with a con that is so perfunctory and simplistic and utterly without any cleverness as to render the film D.O.A.

The film was shot in 2015 and sat on the shelf for three years; it’s easy to see why.

At one point, Roth’s character remarks, “The charm of this little escapade is rapidly wearing thin.”

Amen, brother.

 

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