Vince Vaughn plays a small-time telemarketer whose gig working for the frankly shonky Stephen Tobolowsky and J.J. Johnston ends, leaving the already barely scraping by employees out of pocket and out of work. Then an attractive woman (miscast Julia Ormond) approaches him with an offer to work with a previously incarcerated bigwig (Ed Harris), Vaughn having previously expressed interest (to rivals Randy and Jason Sklar) in working for the man. Harris presents a positive and seemingly legit front, but Vaughn isn’t so sure. Meanwhile, he starts a relationship with Ormond, Harris’ cool and aloof business partner. Is this business venture too good to be true? Did I mention that Harris was previously incarcerated and it’s Ed Freakin’ Harris? Rory Cochrane plays the disabled and somewhat lazy brother Vaughn cares for (I’m disabled and lazy myself, just so you know), whilst Romany Malco Jr., Amber Benson, and Tom Wright play his co-workers. George Wendt, Wallace Shawn, and Brian George play his former co-workers (whom the film clunkily forgets about after the opening scenes).
Don’t let the interesting line-up of actors fool you, this 2000 indie flick from director Gregory Mosher (A Broadway guy in his first and last film directorial assignment) and screenwriter William Wheeler (who wrote “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”) is clichéd, transparent, and disappointing. There’s two memorable scenes in the entire film. One is where Vince Vaughn is trying to reel in an old lady and we see the call visualised as an in-person conversation. It’s a break from the norm. The second scene is the film’s interesting, open ending. It’s got a quietly sad quality to it that I rather liked. Other than those two scenes, and amusing cameos by Randy and Jason Sklar, the film is forgettable.
Vaughn works out the truth about Harris and Ormond more than an hour after the audience, despite it being a less than 90 minute film. Ormond is simply miscast, by the way. The British actress was at home playing Guinevere in the underrated “First Knight” but has struggled to find the right role since then. This role screams for a Famke Janssen, Gina Gershon, or someone else with a harder, more cynical (and sexy) edge to them. Ormond just doesn’t have it in her, and there’s no reason for the character to be British, either.
Although his role is transparent, the only way Ed Harris’ casting could’ve been more amusing is if he played the Stephen Tobolowsky role instead. His, and every other performance aside from Ormond is fine (though the Rory Cochrane character is pretty irritating), but the film is transparent, and never finds the right tone, either. It gives star Vince Vaughn the chance to play a nice- if not virtuous- guy (and he’s quite solid in the role), but this low-key blend of “Boiler Room” and “Glengarry Glen Ross” is too short, familiar, and insubstantial to matter. You’ll wish it was better, and that actors like George Wendt, Stephen Tobolowsky (who has never played someone this ‘normal’ that I can recall), Wallace Shawn, and especially a lively Romany Malco were given more to do.
There’s a reason why you’ve never heard of this film before, and why Mosher hasn’t directed since. A very good reason.