Pawn Shop Chronicles Is More Worn Out Than Weird
The type of third-rate Quentin Tarantino crime saga that lost its luster in the late '90s, Pawn Shop Chronicles presents three intersecting vignettes about Southern-fried crazies, all of whom we meet in the pawn shop owned by Vincent D'Onofrio's laid-back loan artist. Director Wayne Kramer (Running Scared, Crossing Over) makes plain his cartoon-comedy intentions early and often via comic-book-panel-style title cards. The presiding atmosphere of over-the-top zaniness, however, is of a broad, banal sort involving little people, rampant nudity, and quasi-religious nonsense. There's plenty of wannabe-amusing banter about African-American Santas and why skinheads hate Jews to distract from the trio of tales about two dim-witted druggie thieves (Paul Walker and Kevin Rankin) looking to rob a dealer, a husband (Matt Dillon) rescuing his long-lost wife from a madman (Elijah Wood), and a pathetic Elvis impersonator (Brendan Fraser) making Faustian deals for fame. With its Confederate flags, camera-whooshing slapstick violence, and tiring psychosexual madness, Pawn Shop Chronicles feels, in both structure and specifics, as worn out as the junk traded by D'Onofrio, who gives the film its only authentic weirdo moment when he pauses, mid-conversation with a customer, to close his eyes and quietly blow air at a pesky fly.
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