Friday, December 08, 2023

Fast Charlie: Pierce Brosnan’s Biloxi Blues

If Charlie Swift worked in corporate America, he would be transitioning to a part-time “consulting” gig. However, as a fixer for the Biloxi mob, you are either in or out—and he is not ready to retire yet. Honestly, his aging boss needs him now more than ever. One messy job leads to a whole lot of complications, including a woman he rather likes, in Phillip Noyce’s Fast Charlie, which opens today in Brooklyn.

This hit was supposed to be a favor for “Beggar,” the brutal new school head of the New Orleans mob. Swift’s boss Stan Mullen also wanted to use it as a try-out for an eager beaver new assassin. Unfortunately, problems ensue when the kid blows apart their target’s head, which was needed as proof of completion. However, the level-headed Swift reaches out to the victim’s ex, Marcie Kramer, who helps provide a way to identify the corpse.

Swift is rather impressed by Kramer’s level-headedness. In fact, he invites her to dinner, much to his own surprise. However, he is not too distracted to foil an attempt to rub him out when Beggar launches a full-scale attack on Mullen’s organization. Seething for revenge, Swift teams up with Kramer to find her ex’s dirt on Beggar. Yet, he might be even more concerned with her safety.

Fast Charlie
is a lean and mean little revenge thriller that far exceeds its VOD/token theatrical distribution expectations. Screenwriter Richard Wenk’s adaptation of Victor Gischler’s novel has a lot of Southern attitude, but not so much that it could be pigeon-holed as regional or parochial. While not exactly a twisty-turny kind of thriller, it does not travel a predictably straight line either. It has a slightly eccentric inclination that serves it well.

It is also well-cast, providing the best film roles Pierce Brosnan and Morena Baccarin have had in several years. Their romantic chemistry is like a vintage wine, robust but understated. There is a good flow to their banter, so it never sounds over-written or like they are reaching to punch it up. Frankly, it is a little spooky to see the late James Caan playing the fading Mullen, in what might be his penultimate or possibly final role, but he is certainly credible. Plus, Sharon (Cagney) Gless has small role that really stands out. Gbenga Akinnagbe is okay as Beggar, but a little more villainous flamboyance would have given the film even more oomph.

Fast Charlie is an agile overachiever. The blues and funky New Orleans brass band-influenced soundtrack definitely adds a lot (Fil Eisler composed the score and Scott Allen Perry contributed several delightfully jazzy and swampy cuts). It all comes together quite nicely. Recommended for fans of hitman movies and Southern crime dramas, Fast Charlie opens today (12/8) at the Kent Theater in Coney Island.