walkenchronicles

Think of this as a guide through each of Christopher Walken's films, starting with his first and moving forward. Each review will provide analysis, factoids and opinion on the ninety-plus films in his career.

Scam (1993)

scamcoverGenre: Crime Thriller

Walken in Short: His name is Jack Shanks. (Great name, right!?) Jack is a con-artist of con-artists. This is a lead-role for Walken, and he really makes this film better than it would have been with anybody else. He has some great lines, plenty of screen-time and this is one of the few films where he plays a romantic lead.

Movie in a Sentence: Maggie (Bracco) seduces and drugs men so she can rob them, Barry (Ferrar) is her low-life partner in crime, and Jack Shanks (Walken) is the wild card who’s tracked her down and wants to hire her for one big, dangerous scam in Jamaica, but when everyone’s a con, no one can be trusted.

walken_scam_press56Director: John Flynn – known for making small but tough crime films. He did THE OUTFIT with Robert Duvall back in ’73, LOCK UP with Stallone in ’89, and OUT FOR JUSTICE with Steven Seagal in ’91. Right after SCAM, he did something different though. He directed the sci-fi horror video-game-ish thriller BRAINSCAN, starring Edward Furlong.

Writer: Craig Smith, based on the novel ‘Ladystinger

Duration: one hour and 42 minutes

FUN FACT: This film originally aired on the Showtime channel in 1993.

MPAA Rating: ‘R’ – There is, sadly, no nudity anywhere in this film. But there is a severed head in the mini-bar fridge. And a couple mean Jamaican dudes with knives and a sadistic streak. So, there’s that. Also, Walken gets ‘keel-hauled’. Does that count? No? Okay then. Just the severed head.

Available to Own: Alas, only on VHS, and pretty rare. I looked for it on store-shelves and in yard-sales for about 10 years before I broke down and ordered it through Amazon. Totally worth it.

Actors Other Than Walken:

  • Lorraine Bracco plays ‘Maggie”, a street-smart black widow. She does a good job in this. I buy her as a tough cynic using her looks to survive. Also, I like the chemistry between her and Walken. Bracco was in GOODFELLAS just before this, and the TV show ‘The Sopranos’ in 1999.
  • Miguel Ferrar plays ‘Barry’, a sleazy con-mentor for Maggie. He’s out for the easy buck, and he spends most of the film watching from afar, using his con-skills to get dirt on Walken and try to get the upper hand. Ferrar is usually a character actor and he is awesome in pretty much everything, and this is no exception. He was in the original ROBOCOP, the TWIN PEAKS movie, and most recently IRON MAN 3.
  • Daniel von Bargen plays a crime-boss named ‘Headache’. Awesome, right? Headache gets a bunch of cash stolen and he wants it back. Not much of a character arc, but it is such a pleasure to see him villaining it up.Von Bargen is ALWAYS a bad-guy, mostly because he does it so well. He was also in ROBOCOP, in Clive Barker’s LORD OF ILLUSIONS, and somewhat more recently the comedy perfection that is SUPERTROOPERS.
  • Martin Donovan plays ‘Gordon Wexler’, the Headache’s nerdy computer genius who may or may not be skimming off the top. To Walken and Bracco he’s the mark, the fool getting fleeced. Admittedly, he’s not given a lot to do, but he does it well. Donovan was in a slew of Hal Hartley films back in the day, but recently you’ve seen him in the Showtime series ‘Weeds’ for a few episodes.

walken_scam_pic0029Similar Films: Really any film about con-artists with a strong femme fatale element. Specifically I would point out THE GRIFTERS, THE LAST SEDUCTION, HEIST, and FEMME FATALE. Also, remember the film ENTRAPMENT (1999)? A young and flexible Catherine Zeta-Jones is hired by distinguished scoundrel Sean Connery to do “one big score”, but neither one can trust the other even though they kinda fall in love. Remember that one? Same exact thing with SCAM, although we never see Lorraine Bracco slide under a security laser-beam wearing yoga pants. Come to think of it, that’s JUST what this film needed.

Walken Content: There’s a lot of Walken in this, say: 89%. It’s basically a cat and mouse film, and even though the mouse (Bracco) is the main character, the sympathetic character, Walken is the cat. And people loooove cat videos.

Walken Quote: So Walken and Bracco are getting to know each other, and she asks him if he trusts her. He gets a glint in his eye and a smirk on his face and he says:

“I think you run scams from the minute you get up to the minute you go to sleep and dream of new ways to con little old ladies out of their life savings. That’s your profession, tricking people into trusting you. You want something to trust? Trust the $5000 I gave you.”

~ Walken as Jack Shanks

walken_scam_pic0522Should You Watch This? In a word, yes. Although, unless it’s recently been uploaded and offered digitally, then the only way you could watch this is to buy it on VHS. If you’re cool with that, then I say go for it. This is a nice little seedy con-man story that is elevated by the entire cast, most significantly Walken. There is a definite 90’s-television-movie feel to it, with its saxophone score, and its fashion and general tone, but that’s just part of the charm. So if you still have a working VCR, check it out.

 

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