Published on September 6th, 2022 | by Rob Mammone
Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead Blu-ray Review
Summary: Wears its influences on its sleeve, but Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead is a superior slice of Tarantino influenced 1990s crime drama, with an excellent cast of character actors.
Directed by Gary Fleder (Runaway Jury) from a screenplay by Scott Rosenberg (Con Air, Venom) starring Andy Garcia (The Godfather III), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future 1-3), Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, The Dead Zone, Prince of New York), Treat Williams (Once Upon a Time in America)and Gabrielle Anwar (Press Gang, Scent of a Woman, Burn Notice).
It’s hard now, almost thirty years later, to fully comprehend the impact Quentin Tarantino had on cinema. In the space of three years, movies he wrote and or directed were released, that changed the landscape and the language of action thrillers. The ripples from the release of Reservoir Dogs, True Romance and Pulp Fiction upended cinema, leading to a huge number of movies inspired by the tone, the use of language, and the visuals of a Tarantino movie. Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead is one of those movies.
I vividly remember seeing this when it was released in the 90s. I was captivated by the language, which seemed to be a window into a secret world of well dressed, cynical, tough gangsters. The performances were bigger, particularly Treat Williams as the certifiably insane Critical Bill, whose actions form the catalyst for the disaster that befalls all the main characters. The movie seemed to me to be a hard driving, take no prisoners experience that yet had a softish centre at its heart, with the relationship between Andy Garcia’s Jimmy ‘The Saint’ Tosnia and Gabrielle Anwar’s Dagney.
Revisiting it today makes its influences even more outsized and impossible to ignore. Tarantino’s approach is stamped all over Rosenberg’s screenplay, from the characters nicknames, to the bravura language and even Christopher Walken’s magnificent portrayal as the Man With a Plan, a quadriplegic crime lord eager to somehow erase his idiot son’s pedophilia rap by getting Jimmy and his crew to convince his son’s ex-girlfriend to return to him to ‘cure’ him of his vile habits.
Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead doesn’t always succeed, because of the aforementioned influences. As one unkind reviewer said at the time, you might as well just watch a Tarantino movie instead of this. But that would mean you miss out on a really strong, affecting performance from Garcia, whose good guy bad guy performance is the heart of the movie. Lloyd plays the kindly older criminal who is something of a mentor to Jimmy, while Williams clearly has embodied the Method acting approach with his portrayal of Critical Bill. The scene where he ambushes his would be killer in his apartment is one of the finest moment in 90s cinema, and worth the price of this release alone. Fans of a certain age will appreciate seeing Gabrielle Anwar in her pomp, as Jimmy’s love interest caught up in the chaos around him. A talented UK actress who made it to Hollywood but never really took off (she makes a small appearance dancing with Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman), Anwar makes for a strong female presence in a movie otherwise packed with male leads.
This is a beautifully packaged blu ray. You get your nice, brightly coloured cardboard sleeve that harkens back to the style of the 1990s. While a lot of releases this days package up old interviews from the publicity campaign at the time of a movie’s original release, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead’s blu ray release has a number of interviews conducted in 2022 with the key participants, namely Scott Rosenberg and director Gary Fleder, as well as Andy Garcia, all looking back at the making of the movie. The picture and audio are clear and crisp, and its easy to see the restoration work done on the print. It isn’t overloaded with superfluous extras, with the three interviews being the central spine in taking a look back to when the movie was made.
Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead is an entertaining, if derivative, film, emblematic of a time in the 1990s when Hollywood was being upturned by a whip smart, perceptive creative force intent on making his stamp on the industry. If this movie is derivative, it takes all the best qualities of a Tarantino movie and marries it up with some of the finest character actors of the decade and packs an emotional punch as well.
Director Gary Fleder
Audio English (DTS HD 5.1 Surround)
Region Coding B
TV Standard HD
Consumer Advice Medium level violence, adult themes
Year of Release 1995