CLOVER – Review
CLOVER is a crime action/comedy about a couple of Irish American brothers on the run from a Italian American crime boss, in the company of a precocious girl named Clover. The girl is there to make us think of KICK ASS, but CLOVER mines a host of other films in the crime action/comedy genre, pretty much to a fault. While the tropes are familiar, CLOVER puts them together well enough to present a serviceable popcorn entertainment for some audiences. It’s no SNATCH, but it might do in a pinch for an afternoon of stay-at-home distraction, if you don’t expect too much..
CLOVER is not as clever as it thinks it is but it benefits from a strong cast, who provide much of the reason to watch it. Directed by Jon Abrahams (All At Once) with a script by Michael Testone (Mercy), it is well-edited and technically-polished enough to provide some serviceable entertainment, but it could have been better with more work on the script and a bit more care. Where the film is strongest is in its cast, with entertaining work from Mark Webber and Jon Abrahams as the bumbling Irish American brothers at the center of this tale, and nice supporting work from Chazz Palminteri and essentially an extended cameo by the always-wonderful Ron Perlman. Erika Christensen and Julia Jones contribute too, playing contract killers, and Jessica Szohr and Tichina Arnold also pitch in. play an ex-girlfriend and an old pal of the brothers who get embroiled in the mess. One of the comic standouts is Jake Weber, who plays crazy cousin Terry who has some mad skills and a knack with science, if a tenuous grip on the present. In fact, the whole film has a tenuous grip, on its time period and other matters – more on this later.
The film opens with Ron Perlman as a wealthy guy in a mansion explaining, in pompous, ruling-class detail, to an unseen assassin he is hiring, exactly why this particular target needs to be killed to restore the order in the world. It is a bit overblown and mysterious, and the film quickly switches more familiar crime thriller territory. Jackie (Mark Webber) and Mickie (director Jon Abrahams) run an Irish bar that has been in their family for three generations but it is now in danger due to debts they owe to the local crime boss Tony Davolo, played with growling menace by Chazz Palminteri. The girl Clover (Nicole Elizabeth Berger) comes in when the brothers, who are clearly out of their depth, are sent on a job for the crime boss, one that goes oh-so-very wrong.
CLOVER is packed with overworked crime film bits but also the kind of crime film stereotyping about the Irish and Italians common in films of the 1970s. But that latter seems to make a kind of sense, because the story seems to be set in the 1970s. Everyone dresses like the ’70s, the cars are from the ’70s, the decor is ’70s and story seems to fit a 1970s crime genre film pattern. Then someone pulls out a cell phone.
Granted, its a flip phone, so maybe we are in the 1990s and all this takes place in a kind of cultural backwater, But then the time period gets murkier, as more contemporary cars and props turn up, and you can’t help but wonder, when the heck is this story taking place. That thought keeps intruding, and maybe if the story were stronger, it would distract one from thinking about it. But it’s not.
Was there an intention in the murky time period thing? Who knows. Later in the film, it drifts into a kind of contemporary girl power theme, so maybe it is meant as a clever time period twist. However, that does not really work, and the film is not nearly as clever as the filmmakers thinks it is. The story is full of twists and surprises but while the twists are sometimes unexpected, they are also often remarkably far-fetched. The story does eventually get back to the Ron Perlman character in the opening sequence, a sequence that seemed to have no connection to the rest of the tale, but again the connection presented in overly contrived, barely explained and hardly believable. CLOVER ends with tying itself up in a self-satisfied bow, a rather sloppy one.
CLOVER can be a serviceable bit of crime thriller/comedy entertainment, if expectations are not too high. It is a technically well-crafted film with a better-than-expected cast, but it is a fairly well-acted crime yarn whose script could have done with more work. Still, it can offer a bit of entertaining distraction, something we all need in these trying time. CLOVER is available on demand on several video platforms.
RATING: 2 out of 4 stars