Spoiler Warning

Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Albino Alligator

Three small time criminals in New Orleans, have a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This isn't too hard to believe as planning isn't their strong suit. Milo (Gary Sinise), Dova (Matt Dillon) and Law (William Fitchner) start out fleeing the botched robbery of a copper works. They set off an alarm before the robbery even started and need to get a little distance as they are in a stolen car.

Dova is the most well rounded of the three and the closest thing to a leader of the group. That doesn't mean however, that Milo or Law respect his decisions. While they make their getaway, ATF agents are performing a stakeout along the route. Jumping over train tracks while the warning lights are flashing and narrowly missing a train, they accidentally run over an agent in the street without even realizing it. When the agent's colleagues pursue them, the sociopathic Law causes an accident which sends another agent through a windshield and seriously injures Milo.

In order to take a look at Milo's condition and lay low for a bit, they duck into "Dino's Bar" an underground bar that used to be a prohibition era speakeasy, with no windows or back door.  Dova is already frazzled when they get there. He tells the bartender/owner, Dino, (M. Emmett Walsh) that they just need to use the bathroom. When Dino exclaims that he doesn't need a bathroom but an ambulance, Dova pulls his gun and turns it into a hostage situation. Janet (Faye Dunaway) a bar employee, makes her dislike obvious, insulting Dova and setting him more on edge. When he asks her what it will take to make her shut up she responds "If you're not gonna bite, then don't bark." One of the customers, Danny (Skeet Ulrich) attempts to hide behind a pool table until Dova calls him to come out. That leaves two more customers in the bar, Jack (John Spencer) a bar regular, and Guy Foucard(Viggo Mortensen) who sits quietly at a table.

Law attends to Milo in the bathroom at the same time. Milo is bloody and barely conscious, but Law decides to hit him in the face and knock him out.

Dova notices Guy Foucard (Viggo Mortensen) who hasn't said a word since they arrived. Dova tells him that his being quiet, means he's smart, and he's concerned that being smart could cause problems for them. After warning him, the phone starts ringing, which turns out to be Dino's wife calling him to see if he needs a ride home. This angers Dova as Dino had offered to give them his car, now obviously a ploy to get them out of the bar.

The police have already found them at the bar and set up camp outside. Led by Agent Browning (Joe Mantegna,) they wait for back up. Browning, however doesn't know anything about the three thieves and is instead under the impression that the guy they were watching is the killer. Dova talks over strategy with Law, trying to appear in charge without killing anybody. Law doesn't seem to think that's good enough, but agrees to follow Dova's plan for the time being. When Dino surprises Law holding a shotgun to his back to convince Dova to disarm. He gets surprised himself when Law turns the situation around and beats him to death.

Milo wakes up and attempts to help calm things down. He takes a dig at Law for his brutality. Law answers by taunting them but does restrain himself. Milo convinces Dova to talk to the police in order to buy time. Janet keeps asking to go to the bathroom which causes Milo to intervene on her behalf. Dova and Janet butt heads when he asks her about a secret exit, figuring that being a prohibition era bar originally, they would likely have an escape. Danny steps in and volunteers the information bringing Dova and Law into a tunnel to take a look. While they're investigating Milo tries to talk to Janet decently. She attempts to play on his sympathy to convince him to talk his partners into letting them go.  She upsets him by insulting Dova, who he reveals is his brother. In the tunnel, Law questions Dova's commitment to getting drastic if need be. Dova, frustrated and eager not to lose control, insists that he'll do whatever it takes, but insists that he won't hurt Milo and reassures Law that Milo is thinking of a plan to get them out of there.

Realizing the tunnel doesn't lead outside, they return to the bar. Law starts suggesting that they kill people to give the cops a message. Milo insists that they don't hurt anybody. Dova still wants to avoid violence if possible. The three of them argue about it without progress, when the quiet patron, Guy, speaks up telling Dova they have to leave now, suggesting that they release hostages one by one, temselves included, as the cops don't know what they look like. They deliberate and decide that they'll release a hostage with every demand that's met. Guy pockets a dart from the dartboard on his way to the restroom unnoticed by any of them.

Outside, Agent Browning is annoyed that the press is arriving. A reporter asks him if he'll answer some questions. He agree, but makes her interview unusable by cursing profusely in his answers. Everyone in the bar is relaxing for a moment, Dova playing a game of pool with Danny, when Law watching the game, tells Dova he should  "albo gator." Dova has no idea what he means and Law explains that when albino alligators are born they're weak and useless except for use as a sacrifice. The gators will send out the albino to draw out a rival and then surround him, which means the end of the albino, but an advantage for the alligators who then consume the rival's territory. "Deliberate sacrifice for a deliberate gain." he finishes, pointing at the table. He suggests that this technique translates into leaving Danny no shot by placement of the cue ball, but obviously Law has another use in mind. Dova takes the suggestion and parks the cue ball.

Janet takes a moment to apologize to Dova in the restroom, suggesting that she go out with him, as she won't crack under questioning. He hears her out but only agrees to consider it. They catch the news coverage of their stand off in the bar, and realize that they are on the hook for the deaths of three officers. They come up with a list of demands an empty bus with tinted windows and a driver which will take them to a private jet. The reporter outside okays a request to run a picture of the killer, and Guy's face is soon on the television, although only Guy sees it as they have stopped watching the news, and he manages to keep anyone from noticing.

Milo confronts Dova and Law, making Dova swear on their mother's grave that they won't kill anyone. He asks Law to swear, but Law only swears that they won't kill anyone "unless they have to." Agent Browning tells the agents that if there's another gunshot, they're going in. The news repeats the story about Guy and this time they all catch it. Guy pretends he doesn't know anything about it, but Law puts a gun to his head and tells him that Law will break his fingers if he doesn't tell them what's going on. Law is eager to prove he's serious and breaks a finger before he has a chance to answer anything. Law breaks a second one when they catch him in a lie. He admits that the police are looking for him. They lock the hostages in a closet to discuss the situation. Dova thinks that killing Guy and giving him to the cops will let them go free. Milo doesn't think it will work as they have evidence in the car and all the witnesses and doesn't want to see anyone killed.  He doesn't realize that Dova and Law are planning to kill all the witnesses. Milo insists that their only option is to leave as hostages, being released one by one in exchange, as they had planned originally. Milo is getting weaker as they talk, now not even able to stand up for any length of time. He asks Dova for his gun and insists that he'll stop this.

Milo is too weak to fight though, and Dova wrestles the gun away while Law knocks him to the ground. Law reminds Dova that he "promised to see it through to the end no matter what his brother said." Milo is hurt as Dova swore on their mother's grave not to kill anyone. Dova only answers that things have changed. Law and Dova start beating on Guy and Milo starts crawling for the door insisting he doesn't want any part of it and is turning himself in. This prompts Dova to pull a gun on his brother. This is the last straw for Milo. Aware that he's dying already, he takes out a pocket knife and cuts his own wrists.

Outside the cops are preparing to charge in, rigging the door with explosives. In the bar, they bring the hostages out of the closet and Law starts beating on Jack with Dova making no attempt to restrain him. Milo calls Dova's attention to his wrists, calling him "Boss" to halt the beating. Law is preparing to beat the other hostages to death, while Dova sits with his dead brother. Danny reveals that Janet is his mother, which makes Law pause for a moment. She promises that neither of them will say a word if they get out. She begs them, reminding Dova of his brother's wishes. Dova doesn't trust her and proposes that she has to kill the last remaining hostage herself to ensure her silence.

The police rush in blowing the door off. Guy who has been playing more injured than he was pulls the dart from his jacket and stabs Law, grabbing his gun just in time for the cops to see him with it and shoot both he and Law dead. Janet watches as they wheel away Jack's corpse. Dova, Janet and Danny are caught by the press. The reporter asks Dova how it feels to be a hero. He has no answer and Danny interrupts saying he's not a hero. Janet steps in and say "I think he means that none of us are."

Albino Alligator is Kevin Spacey's first film and a strong effort, although not without it's flaws. While certainly shot on a small budget, the rare change of scenery makes it feel more like a play than a film. It lacks a sense of continuity in that each location feels like it's own world rather than everything being a part of the whole. Mantegna's scene's outside the bar, may as well be in a different town as they just don't feel connected strongly enough. I can accept this for the most part as the main interest is watching the three men interact and claw at each other once they're confined. Fichtner is wonderful as a sociopath with a heavy New Orleans accent. He comes across as cold and as eager to kill somebody as he is to escape. Sinise is his opposite, totally without malice, reasoning and unwilling to be part of violence, even if it means he doesn't escape. Dillon is terrific as the conflicted middleman, who has to keep charge at all costs, but has no idea what he's doing. He tells everyone what he thinks they want but without conviction, which is obvious to everyone but him.

The dialogue while mostly smart and intriguing, does have moments of exposition showing through. All in all it ends up an entertaining piece with good acting and a solid story full of tension and uncertain loyalties where anyone may be capable of more or less than you think. The World of "Albino Alligator" is a random and uncaring one, where being smart or brutal isn't enough to save you, your best bet is to avoid taking a firm position and try to please everyone for as long as you can, hope for a little luck, and just buy yourself some time.


Dark Mr. Fripperton said...

This sounds like a great movie, will check it out someday.

Widow_Lady302 said...

Great review, I actually like Spacey so I'd be happy to see it. My big question that you didn't answer is...Why do they call it Albino Alligator?

INDBrent said...

"Law explains that when albino alligators are born they're weak and useless except for use as a sacrifice. The gators will send out the albino to draw out a rival and then surround him, which means the end of the albino, but an advantage for the alligators who then consume the rival's territory." most of their getaway strategies use a variation of this strategy (although Milo doesn't agree) kill (sacrifice)the witnesses and then the thieves can go out as hostages.

Widow_Lady302 said...

Ahhhhh, Ok Kewlies! Thanks for answering my question, Brent! *muah*

Aiden said...

This movie was amazing it kept me guessing but is it wierd that i like law?

INDBrent said...

Hi Aiden, Thanks for stopping in! I don't think it's weird. Law was probably the coolest of them all, just didn't end up so well!