Joe and Tom's Hilarious Head Trip
As director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro embark on production next month of The Irishman, the moviemaker’s eagerly anticipated return to the gangster genre adapting Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses, about the criminal career of a real-life hitman who may have taken part in, among other dark deeds, the disappearance of Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, it will mark a reunion not only of Scorsese and De Niro (their ninth project together after a 22-year pause) and Scorsese and Harvey Keitel (their sixth go-round after a three-decade gap), it will also return Joe Pesci (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino) to the Scorsese fold – and back onto the screen since the Newark, NJ, native took a break from on-screen acting after Love Ranch in 2010. Though Pesci hasn’t inhabited the cineplex for a while, he’s never left the hearts and minds of film fans who treasure not only his portrayals of tough guys but also his marvelous – and, okay, okay, okay, eminently quotable – comedy work in two Home Alones, three Lethal Weapons, The Super and My Cousin Vinny. Coming toward the end of his handful of 1990s comic turns was a spiky and demented romp that both paid homage to his crooked screen persona and gave free rein to his inner working-stiff funnyman. When unleashed 20 years ago, 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (1997), written by and marking the directorial debut of Tom Schulman, the Academy Award®-winning screenwriter of Dead Poets Society as well as Honey I Shrunk the Kids, What About Bob? and Holy Man, was dismissed as too over the top, and didn’t catch on with contemporaneous moviegoers and critics. But this outlandishly wild ride about a hired mob killer whose lethal luggage containing proof of a mass rubout gets switched at the airport with that of a college student en route to a vacation in Mexico with his girlfriend’s family has a rock-solid anchor in the formidable Pesci, whom Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times reported, is “funny every moment he is on the screen.” And the nutty complications that follow when Pesci pursues his putridly packed parcel are enlarged and enlivened by a go-for-broke ensemble of players that includes Andy Comeau and Kristy Swanson as the unlucky young man and his squeeze, George Hamilton and Dyan Cannon as her snooty, self-absorbed parents, Ernestine Mercer as a gorgon-like grandmother, and David Spade and Todd Louiso as fraternity brothers whom Pesci maniacally menaces in tracking down his heady collection. Two intervening decades of edgy, gross-out moviemaking might serve to make 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag’s subversive silliness somehow endearing today, and as Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo astutely advises: “Writer-director Schulman clearly understands the fatal charm of Pesci’s ferocity, and provides him with many opportunities to display it at magnum force.” For the ultimate head trip on hi-def Blu-ray, pack TT's disc of the ferociously funny 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag into your player August 15. Preorders open August 2.