[Screen It]


(1998) (Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild None Heavy Minor Minor
Mild None Minor None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Minor Minor Mild Mild

Comedy: Two untalented singers are mistaken for professional safecrackers and must pull off three heists in one week or suffer the wrath of the Jewish Mafia.
Sam (SAM ROCKWELL) and Eddie (STEVE ZAHN) are two untalented singer-songwriters in Providence, Rhode Island, while "Big Fat" Bernie Gayle (MICHAEL LERNER) and "Good Stuff" Leo (HARVEY FIERSTEIN) are rival chieftains of the local Jewish Mafia. When Bernie sends his henchman, Veal Chop (PAUL GIAMATTE), to find two professional safecrackers, Mitchell (JOSH PAIS) and his dimwitted partner, Frank (MARK RUFFALO), the right-hand man incorrectly pegs Sam and Eddie as those thieves.

When Bernie isn't convinced they're the real safecrackers, he gives them one week to pull off three heists lest they suffer his wrath. Not knowing what they're doing, Sam and Eddie head off to do the best they can, not realizing that Mitchell and Frank are working on the same jobs. To make matters worse, the two novices unknowingly end up in Leo's basement where they meet his daughter, Hannah (CHRISTINA KIRK). Leo runs a fencing operation that Hannah caters, and while Sam is instantly attracted to her, Eddie wants to keep the number of mob members in their lives to a minimum.

Complicating matters is the fact that Hannah used to date Frank and he desperately wants to get back with her, but she wants nothing to do with him. As Sam and Eddie race to complete their designated missions, Bernie sends them on one last job that may prove too much for them.

Unless they're fans of someone in the cast, it's not very likely.
For language.
  • SAM ROCKWELL and STEVE ZAHN play two hapless and untalented performers whose decision to try to rob an old man's safe gets them involved in even more heists for the Jewish mafia.
  • MICHAEL LERNER plays a Jewish mafia capo with a penchant for sweat suits and caring for his son and his upcoming Bar-Mitzvah.
  • PAUL GIAMATTE plays Bernie's somewhat goofy henchman.
  • HARVEY FIERSTEIN plays a rival mafia capo who runs a fencing operation.
  • CHRISTINA KIRK plays Leo's daughter who knowingly supports her father's criminal business.


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    A lightweight and mildly enjoyable crime caper, "Safe Men" is the sort of film that usually appears or even debuts late at night or in the early afternoon on some pay cable TV channel such as HBO. Succeeding at being entertaining only because of its talented and charming cast -- as well as its overall fluff aura -- this film won't even come close to cracking open the elusive box office safe. If you blink, it will be gone and thus join any number of little seen, mediocre films that annually disappear into the "I kind of remember that movie" void.

    The film's biggest fault -- despite its posturing otherwise -- is that it's not that funny or clever. While the basic plot shows some potential, it's never fully executed and the story moves along from start to finish without much going for it. Although a few laughs erupt here and there, the whole notion of two "losers" trying to crack safes to avoid the wrath of the local chapter of the Providence, Rhode Island Jewish mafia is pretty much wasted.

    While the whole notion of the location and membership of this segment of the mob is funny on paper, and the characters are the polar opposites of those normally associated with the likes of genre icons, Pacino, De Niro and Brando, the film never quite goes far enough to be funny.

    Likewise, a bit about Sam wearing a butt pad (or falsie, as it is) isn't humorous as presumably intended, and a scene where the guys try to crack open a safe while the professional thieves are simultaneously working on it from the other side of the wall lacks any fun sparks or humor. I kept expecting something akin to the jewelry robbing scenes in the "Pink Panther" movies, but such scenes in this film are remarkably flat, except for one unrelated storytelling scene involving a pair of flammable pants.

    Fortunately, the film is populated with a talented and fun cast that partially makes up for the plot deficiencies. I've always enjoyed the work of Sam Rockwell "(Lawn Dogs," "Box of Moonlight") -- who is basically unknown to the general public -- and while this is hardly one of his better roles, he gives the character enough hangdog charm to make him likeable.

    The usually zany Steve Zahn ("Out of Sight," "That Thing You Do") has put the brakes on that characteristic that's quickly defining him, but still does a decent job. The same holds true for the wonderful and normally flamboyant Harvey Fierstein ("Independence Day") who manages to be decent despite not having been given great material with which to work. Likewise, Michael Lerner ("Godzilla") and Paul Giamatte ("The Truman Show") deliver okay performances, but theirs and many of the others aren't up to par with what one would expect for a film like this.

    To his credit, first time writer and director John Hamburg delivers some decent and occasionally funny moments, and generally keeps things moving along at a brisk pace. It's unfortunate, however, that his plot doesn't deliver the expected fun and clever twists and turns that usually accompany a crime caper such as this. Likewise, despite what sound like fun complications in the plot description, such elements are never fully exploited. It's only due to the fun cast that we give this film -- which should have been so much better -- a 3 out of 10.

    Profanity earns this film its R rating and consists of more than 40 "f" words and an assortment of others. Beyond the fact that nearly everyone is involved in criminal behavior of some sorts -- including our main characters who agree to knock off a safe at the beginning -- the remaining categories don't have much in the way of major objectionable material. Some drinking occurs, as does some limited violence, and a few mild sexual comments are made, but that's about it. Even so, you may want to take a closer look should you or someone in your home wish to see this film.

  • Some people in a lounge drink and smoke.
  • Mitchell tells Frank that he's breaking tradition by not joining him in a bar for a round of slow gin fizzes.
  • Sam and Eddie have drinks in a bar, as does Veal Chop and another man. Later, Veal Chop offers to buy them some slow gin fizzes and we later see that all of them have had more to drink.
  • Sam, Hannah, Leo and others (including a boy) drink wine with dinner at Leo's house.
  • Sam has a drink at a party.
  • None.
  • Mitchell and Frank are professional safe-crackers and thieves. In one scene, they also knock a taco delivery guy to the ground and steal his delivery (although one of them comes back, pays and apologizes).
  • Bernie and Veal Chop are part of the Jewish mafia (organized crime) and threaten Eddie and Sam with physical harm if they don't comply with their demands to rob some safes.
  • Leo is also in the mob and is a fence (selling stolen goods), while his daughter serves appetizers at her father's "store."
  • Eddie and Sam agree to attempt a safe-cracking job that Veal Chop has told them about. Later, they have to attempt more to avoid Bernie's physical retribution.
  • Although the scenes where Bernie threatens Sam and Eddie (one including a gun) are obviously played for laughs, a few viewers may find the moments somewhat tense.
  • Handgun: Aimed by Bernie at Sam and Eddie as he threatens them again.
  • Phrases: "P*ssy out," "Bitch" (what Sam calls Bernie), "Holy sh*t," "Take a sh*t," "Hand job," "Idiot," "Shut up," "Screwed up," "Bastard" and "Balls" and "Nuts" (testicles).
  • Some kids may get the idea that it would be fun trying to crack a safe.
  • None.
  • One or two scenes have just a tiny bit of tense music in them.
  • None.
  • At least 43 "f" words, 17 "s" words, 2 slang terms for male genitals ("d*ck" and "c*ck"), 2 slang terms for female genitals ("p*ssy"), 1 slang term for breasts (the "t" word), 7 asses (1 used with "hole"), 2 hells, 1 damn, 1 crap, and 3 uses of "G-damn," and 1 use each of "Jesus Christ," "Christ," "God," "Good God," "Oh my God," and "Swear to God" as exclamations.
  • We briefly see Sam in his underwear as he changes clothes.
  • Seeing that Frank is still upset about his breakup with Hannah, Mitchell tells him, "There are a ton of ladies in this town dying to get into your trou (trousers)."
  • Going on about the high prices of shrimp cocktail in restaurants, Veal Chop says, "I could go get myself a hand job for eight bucks."
  • Mitchell and Frank talk about having sex with the cast members of "Charlie's Angels" and one of them says, "I'd rather make love to Farrah Fawcett first than Kate Jackson because I find her very sexually attractive."
  • Frank asks Hannah about Sam, "Are you having sex with that guy?"
  • Some people in a lounge drink and smoke.
  • A man at Leo's house has a cigar.
  • Veal chop tells Bernie Jr. that his mom would have been proud of him (and his Bar-Mitzvah), implying that she's either dead or otherwise removed from the family.
  • That life as a criminal isn't as easy or glamorous as it may seem (or as is often depicted in movies).
  • The real mafia.
  • Mitchell and Frank grab a taco delivery guy and throw him to the ground before robbing him (of his food).
  • Although we don't see the impact, Veal Chop comes at Eddie and Sam (who are trying to crack a safe) with a raised golf club.
  • Eddie and Sam somewhat playfully punch each other in the shoulders.
  • Bernie threatens Sam and Eddie by telling them that he'll cut off their legs and beat them with the stumps. Later, he threatens them again, but this time holds a gun at them.
  • Bernie and his wrestling coach/partner slam each other into padded walls while practicing.
  • Veal Chop says that when he tried to put his tongue in Hannah's mouth, "She punched me in the penis."
  • Eddie repeatedly hits a file cabinet with a hammer (being frustrated about not getting into a safe).
  • Bernie elbows Eddie in the chest.
  • Hannah punches Sam in the face.

  • Reviewed July 30, 1998

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