Clay Pigeons (1998) Short Review

Clay Pigeons is a pretty good indie/suspense/comedy. It can sometimes lead to epic failure when dark and quirky are combined in a movie, but the tone of Clay Pigeons made what could have been a serious crime flick a little more fun. The actors while maybe not at their best are still pretty good here.

Joaquin Phoenix does a reasonable job as the lead. His character isn’t really written with a good head on his shoulders. He tends to take the really stupid choice in any situation, but he is consistent. He made it  much harder on himself than it had to be, but I guess sometimes people do that.

The movie starts with Clay Bidwell shooting at bottles out on the plains (Montana maybe?) with a friend. The friend soon begins accusing Clay (Phoenix) of sleeping with his wife. Clay (hence the title) denies this, but his friend is determined to commit suicide and does. On top of that he planned several things to make it look like Clay is the one that pulled the trigger, going so far as to shoot himself in the leg with Clay’s gun before killing himself with it.

Clay panics and tries to cover it up. He does so and being a small town, noone expects good ol’ Clay to have murdered his friend. Unbeknownst to the rest of the town, Clay WAS sleeping with the man’s wife and in order to keep up appearances (and in reaction to the wife’s apathy for her husband’s death) Clay tries to break off their relationship.

Nicole Arlyn plays an important, if small role...

That doesn’t go very well and Clay soon finds himself in deeper, darker waters. By the time Vaughn’s psychopathic stranger enters the mix, Clay is in full downward spiral and lying to cover up lies.Saying any more than that would be giving away too much. I may have already done that.

Vince Vaughn has played a few weirdos in his career, this one being one of those. He uses a goofy laugh to signal that weirdness, though none of the film’s characters recognize it as that.

Phil Morris with Garofalo...

This was back wen Janine Garofalo had a little bit of  afilm career and wasn’t complaining about how she had to maintain a certain appearance to get roles. I know that’s unfair, but part of the business. David Strathaims is probably a better actor than Brad Pitt, but he’s probably never going to beat him out of any roles. It’s not just the women’s roles Janine. Anyway, she is decent in this as she was competant in a good many roles in this time frame like The Minus Man (where she also played  a law…person.) or The Bowler in the underrated Mystery Men.

Scott Wilson is understated in this, but I think is very important to the appeal of this film, at least for me. His character is written smartly and not just as the backwoods sheriff who always immediately takes the wrong side. He is an interesting counterpoint to Garofalo’s character, who acts more on evidence than on feeling.

Out of all of the actors, the one that surprised me the most in this was Georgina Cates as the unfaithful widow. She was completely unrecognizable in this. The last time I saw her was in a movie called An Awfully Big Adventure (which I didn’t like) that was made 3 years prior of this. It’s still hard to believe it’s the same person.

The resolution of the film is a little puzzling. I might have to watch it again to try and understand some of the final motivations of some of the characters. It still was a satisfactory ending, though. And I liked the Montana setting, too. Just placing the story there, gives it a little of a western flair. It’s a good movie that surprised me by having the Scott Free banner attached (Ridley Scott’s production company). Worth seeing.

4 of 5


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