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In some ways, he's the perfect leading man of the indie-film, art-house, post-slacker '90s: In Walking and Talking, Bandwagon, and now Kicked in the Head (the last of which he co-wrote), he portrays young men with nothing better to do than look for something better to do. The first time he shows up in Bandwagon, a rather mediocre rock-and-roll fantasy about a band on the verge of making it, he's strolling small-town streets smoking a joint. The first time he shows up in Kicked in the Head, he's scooting down a New York sidewalk, once again rushing to get nowhere. Playing a mid-twenties Lower East Sider named Redmond, he tells his Uncle Sam (James Woods) that he's out on the streets because his apartment burned down; and besides, he's collecting information for his book about life and seeking some, like, truth, man.
The film itself is on a journey, too--only it seeks a plot, a reason for its own existence. It has no beginning or end; it merely starts and stops, as though filming began on a lark and ended when the money ran out. We come in during a car heist (Uncle Sam swipes a Lincoln-Continental and happens across Redmond) and leave in the middle of a kiss. What occurs in between is a rather messy and surprisingly delightful middle that involves Redmond's best friend, Stretch (Michael Rapaport), a beer distributor involved in a turf war with the guys over at Beer-o-Rama; a missing brick of cocaine that belongs to Rocky's Burt Young; Happy (Lili Taylor), a young woman who has devoted her life to stalking Redmond until he falls in love with her; Megan (Linda Fiorentino), a stewardess who may or may not be the love of Redmond's pitiful little existence; and a dog dragging around a shopping cart.
In the end, Kicked in the Head is nothing more than a goof, a low-rent After Hours in which Redmond bounces from one situation to another without any say-so. His life is out of control, a series of comic sketches looking for their place on the Must-See TV schedule (talk about a show about nothing). He gets caught in the middle of two shootouts, molested by a buddy's girlfriend, threatened by a drug-dealing mobster and hunted by a would-be lover--but never is in any real danger. His life happens to him, not the other way around. The only thing he's sure of is that he's in love with Megan--the angel, he tells her, who will give eyesight to the blind man. "The blind man is me," he adds with the sincerity of a madman, and it's hard to decide whether she's touched by his words or frightened by them. If Corrigan's face is a blank slate, Fiorentino's is jagged rock.
Redmond's full of it, and it shows: His idea of deep conversation is asking whether there were people on the planet before Adam and Eve and discussing the plots of the Planet of the Apes films. It's also hinted at that perhaps his apartment burned down after he was evicted. ("Rent is not necessary," he tells Fiorentino at one point, and he says it as though it were an indisputable fact.) After all, he's obsessed with the Hindenburg; when something goes wrong with his own life, his head fills with the infamous newsreel footage of the airship exploding into flame and people screaming as they fry. (Kicked in the Head might well be the art-house equivalent of HBO's Dream On.)
Redmond comes from a long line of con men and creeps. His Uncle Sam is only one of them, a fast-buck scammer played by Woods as though he's too busy to star in a movie such as this; he talks so fast, he's two pages ahead of everyone else and on his way to the catering truck. Sam and Redmond are cut from the same tattered cloth: They don't know what they want, but they know how to get it. Fiorentino's flight attendant--"I'm a stewardess," she snarls--is also of their breed: She sees in Redmond a temporary respite from a life spent handing out peanuts to strangers, and though she's loath to get involved with "young boys who are in trouble," she's quick to hop the Redmond bound for disaster.
Director/co-writer Matthew Harrison has fashioned a movie in which so much of so little goes on, you're left wondering what happened to the last ninety minutes. Yet Kicked in the Head is charming, perhaps because it seems to genuinely care about people so utterly unlikable. Either that, or it's the work of con men.
Kicked in the Head.
Written by Matthew Harrison and Kevin Corrigan. Directed by Matthew Harrison. Starring Kevin Corrigan, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Rapaport, James Woods and Burt Young.
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