Montana (1998) (R)

"Montana" is a great example of a movie that time forgot. Who has actually heard of this movie? I know that I certainly hadn't and when it was recommended it was virtually impossible to get my hands on. But now that I've seen it it makes me wonder who gets to choose the movies that everybody watches. "Montana" isn't a great movie but it's good, yet I've seen movies that are supposed to be classics that are much much worse than this, so why are they classics and this isn't? Who knows? It's the production, the fact that "Montana" wasn't a big box office hit, and the cast who is now well known but in 1998 were all b-listers.
Claire Kelsky works for a mob boss who is the typical imposing figure, large and formidable—demands respect and allegiance. Once you're in you're never getting out. What's interesting about this gangster squad is how it's set up. They have a typical office with a reception area where the men mingle and wait until their boss calls them in.
From the beginning "Montana" is a delightful blend of comedy and crime, not that that is uncommon.
When a series of uncontrollable events leads the boss to think that Claire is responsible for his son's death, the price is her head.
Claire is a professional and knows that she's essentially treading water so she enlists the help of her partner Nick. Nick is dying and he has an attitude of not caring that is an interesting twist.
The actors are all fun and lively and they include Kyra Sedgwick, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Robbie Coltrane.
The script, while suffering from cliches and a grossly simplistic plot, is actually remarkably realistic. It's not hard to picture yourself saying the lines these characters do in the same circumstances. Just because you're in a movie doesn't mean you don't get to talk like everyday characters. Every script writer would like to tell you that his characters are incredibly realistic, but that's rarely true. Maybe it's all the director's fault because I have yet to have a conversation with another person that involved me pushing them against a wall and speaking really close to their face, then again I'm not a gangster, Athenian, boxer, alcoholic, or philanthropist so I guess that no one's going to make a movie about my life.
While the characters struggle to understand why these events are happening to them we find plot devices that, although overused and expected, are still fun to see.
The tag line from "Montana" was "Never underestimate the power of a woman" which I find to be a horrible tag line. Although Claire is the main character it's not her "woman power" that helps her succeed in the end. In fact, I would argue that the ending is not successful for any of the characters although it is a great ending. A much better tag line for a movie was for "Alien" which said "No one can hear you scream in space"...see, that's effective—manipulative, but effective.
"Montana" hits the same notes that hundreds of other movies have hit, but sometimes I like hearing the same notes again.

Score: 3 out of 4 stars

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