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GUN SHY (2000) ** Liam Neeson, Oliver Platt, Sandra Bullock, Jose Zuniga, Michael DeLorenzo, Andy Lauer, Richard Schiff, Paul Ben-Victor, Mitch Pileggi, Gregg Daniel, Ben Weber, Mary McCormack, Michael Mantell.
Liam Neeson may not be known for his comic flair in spite of his wide dramatic range in serious films but here he displays a low underwhelming charm that has a distinct world-weary sarcasm that helps make his nearly burnt out federal undercover agent Charlie a somewhat put-upon likable good guy.
Charlie is on the verge of some kind of nervous breakdown ever since a botched assignment nearly got him killed and an aversion to watermelon (he was forced in a compromising position a la a roasted pig during the melee), that unless he can pull himself together the next job may send him over the edge.
That's why while en route to his debriefing for a small-time made man in New York he makes small talk on the plane with a man who turns out to be a therapist and before he knows it is on the couch and later in group therapy with a quartet of stressed businessmen who seem to all share a common thread: fear of repercussions and termination.
Charlie is so bent out of shape in his recovery from his life-threatening incident and the upcoming ploy to oust the violent tempered Fulvio Nesstra (Platt, one of our best comic actors playing it to the hilt a la Paul Sorvino) that the therapist recommend him to a gastrointestinal clinic where in arguably the oddest meet-cute in film history is ministered by the sunny Judy Tipp (wholesomely sexy Bullock, who also produced the comedy) and wind up falling in love with her post-enema treatment (!) What makes the film its own is its blend of the out-of-sort comic elements of Charlie's high stressed work and the group therapy's oddball patients , especially Richard Schiff (best know as the human wishbone in 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park' and currently on tv's dramedy 'The West Wing') who is so beyond frazzled at his workplace he has to resort to some bizarre tactics to avoid blurting out a Tourette's Syndromelike spurt of vitriol (at least until the film needs it as a closure).
Maybe because of the unusual hybrid of comedy a la 'Analyze This' with the broad character of Platt's Fulvio and the somewhat sardonic tone of Neeson's Charlie does it mesh often on the mark. Yet the film suffers from trying to balance too much on its scales to begin with but comes across as a game effort with a fine ensemble and clever screenplay by new filmmaker Eric Blakeney.
Give it an A for effort in attempting to make an original spin on a chestnut like the screwball comedy and fish out-of-water genre.
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