Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mark Webber, Nicole Elizabeth Berger, Jon Abrahams, Chazz Palminteri, Ron Perlman , Erika Christensen, Julia Jones, Jessica Szohr, Michael Godere, Jake Weber, Tichina Arnold, Johnny Messner, Val Lauren, Louis Lombardi, Christian George, Brian Goodman
Written by: Michael Testone
Directed by: Jon Abrahams
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 101
Date: 04/03/2020

Clover (2020)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Loose Leaf

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The basic framework of this crime movie is wearily familiar, but it gets bonus points for a sense of place, a wry sense of humor, and the clever way it shifts women characters into positions of power.

In Clover, Jackie (Mark Webber) has racked up a huge gambling debt and owes $50,000 to gangster Tony (Chazz Palminteri). His twin brother Mickey (Jon Abrahams) is furious, and afraid that they'll lose the family bar. Dragged in see Tony, they are given a chance to redeem themselves, if they'll pull the trigger on another man that hasn't paid his debt.

They go to the man's house, with Tony's son Joey (Michael Godere), but the brothers can't do the deed. A teen girl called Clover (Nicole Elizabeth Berger) appears and Joey is shot dead. So Jackie and Mickey find themselves on the run, with Clover in tow, trying to avoid getting killed by an army of gangsters. Unfortunately, two highly skilled female killers have also been called in...

Clover — the title refers to the teen girl character and to a four-leaf clover the brothers covet — has all the typical mob movie scenes, with a tough boss yelling at his underlings (and killing anyone who gets out of line), and the ne'er-do-well heroes who wandered in over their heads. It also has all the usual hide-and-chase scenes, bloody shootouts, and constant swearing.

Yet as Clover goes along, it becomes clear that the filmmakers — actor/director Jon Abrahams and screenwriter Michael Testone — have a very clear sense of this world, the lifelong relationships, and the sharp, harsh way that people deal with each other. The relationship between the brothers grows more nuanced, and their bickering becomes funnier. But the real surprise is the movie's handling of women, not only the hired killers, but also the proprietor of a club, and a hard-as-nails ex-girlfriend who agrees to help the fugitives.

Sadly, Clover herself is a bit of a weak link; the character seems to try a little too hard, when a dash of subtlety might have worked better. But Jake Weber adds a wonderfully weird touch as the poisons expert Terry, who helps the brothers. He's a good luck charm that edges the movie into "worth seeing" territory.

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