Judge Bill Gibron once bought a new car from a used lemon. Does that count?
When life gives you lemons, sell them to some sucker.
Al Klein (Christopher Meloni, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit) and his pal Al Martini (Dean Norris, Breaking Bad) are a couple of middle aged used car salesman. Using questionable ethics and even less stringent moral standards, they are the kind of smiling sleazeballs who get gullible shoppers to spend their hard earning money on overpriced, "one owner" lemons. Al is estranged from his son Freddy (Devon Bostick, Diary of a Wimpy Kid) so imagine his surprise when the college-bound kid bails on Cal Poly and, instead, decides to move in with dad and learn the car trade. Seeing a chance to reconnect, a strong parent/child bond begins. Then Al starts to notice traits in his boy that he's uncomfortable with. Soon, it's clear that Freddy plans on being his father, even down to the questionable business principles. Naturally, Al doesn't want this for his son and struggles to set him straight.
For yours truly, there is only one great used car movie: Used Cars. Bob Zemeckis. Kurt Russell. Jack Warden. Phantom of the Paradise's Beef himself, Garrit Graham. It was loose, crude, and a heckuva lotta fun. Cadillac Man? Can take it or leave it. Small Time has neither of those films' winning qualities, and frankly, it doesn't want them. This is a character piece, albeit one drawn on some distinctly cliched notions. Used car salesman are unethical and corrupt? You don't say. Fathers who've abandoned their kids feel bad when they reenter their lives? Really? A friend can be just as bad an influence as a parent? Noooooooo…and an ardent youth, eager to make his way in the world, may have to slow down a bit and see the work hard and try your best forest for the quick buck trees? I'm shocked. Yet thanks to the likable cast and decent direction by TV scribe Joel Surnow (24, The Commish), Small Time kind of works. You see where it's going, but don't really mind how it's getting there.
That's because actors like Meloni and Norris demand more of our attention than they typically get. They are recognizable faces, but not famous in the way you expect of "stars." Both have been in major projects (with Norris mostly identified as Walter White's DEA brother-in-law) and yet never get the respect they deserve. Here, they breeze through the material, making the most of Surnow's scant script. This is especially true of Meloni's Al. We read him almost immediately, yet enjoy finding out that our instincts were true, in part because the actor shares the experience with us. Bostick may be the weak link here, only because of his previous exposure in those dopey Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies. He seems to have more on that ball than the mischievous adolescent Roderick, but he doesn't do enough here to separate himself from his past. Still, Small Time is a pleasant experience, often entertaining and occasionally insightful. It will never trump Zemeckis' early gem, but few films could, actually.
Anchor Bay's Small Time (Blu-ray) release is fairly decent. The 1.78:1/1080p HD widescreen image is colorful and bright, with nice contrasts and significant detail. The direction is more or less standard, with no real flourishes or flare, but the transfer does a good job of keeping everything focused. The sound situation is also solid with the TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix doing an excellent job of keeping the dialogue discernible and the ancillary elements along the fringes. As for added content, we are provided a commentary track with Surnow, Meloni, and Norris, and it's a hoot. All three men clearly enjoy each other's company and offer up frequently hilarious anecdotes about the shoot and each other. As bonus features go, it's a nice supplement. Sadly, that's all Anchor Bay has to offer in the way of extras.
Small Time is an appropriate name for this film. While the cast may be near the top of the B-list, the movie itself is a minor enjoyment at best.
Not guilty. A decent little effort.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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