This unassuming buddy-road movie has all the quirky fun of low-budget indie flicks and none of their pretentions.
Short on ambition but ever so long on charm, "The Almost Guys" is the kind of scruffy little buddy-action-comedy-road movie that would have popped up at the bottom of a drive-in double bill in the '70s. It's a caper comedy involving a baseball star with money problems, a couple of small-time repo men, the Mafia, two hairdressers, a kid, a crooked detective and two ex-wives with more common sense than the rest of the cast put together. Profound human drama it ain't, but there's an easygoing goofiness about the movie that makes you want to ride shotgun in the getaway car.
Eric Fleming, who also wrote and directed, plays Rick Murphy, who works for an auto repossession agency with a doddering 73-year-old partner, the Colonel (Robert Culp). The Colonel isn't as slick at snatching cars as he once was. Murphy, nice guy that he is, leaps to the Colonel's defense whenever they're caught by the car's owner, and generally gets knocked silly. When they take back a car whose trunk contains pitcher Jim Anderson (James Edson), kidnapped on the eve of the World Series, the ballplayer and his rescuers try to work out a scheme to collect the ransom themselves. Their scam goes wrong immediately. Murphy grabs his young son Buddy (Oliver Davis) off the school playground to protect him from reprisals, and the four of them hightail it cross-country. Murphy hasn't been the most responsible parent the past few years, and he aims to have some quality time with Buddy while they're fugitives, teaching him to pick locks and such.
Fleming brings a feeling of loose, lively fun to the story. He writes funny characters, funny dialogue and funny situations. His eccentric heroes are amiable, their adventures are engaging, and you never begrudge Fleming the coincidences he needs to make his story work. There's none of the too-cool-for-school sensibility that infects a lot of indie movies. This one has a low budget, but a heart of gold.
The setup: Two small-time repo men (Eric Fleming and Robert Culp) stumble on a kidnapping and try to cut themselves in on the deal.
What works: Writer/director/star Fleming establishes a mood of high-spirited fun that is all but irresistible.
What doesn't: There are an awful lot of coincidences required to make the story work, but the film is so charming you go with them.
Great line: Repeated warnings about what you might encounter on a motel bedspread.
Rating: PG-13 for crude sexual references, language and thematic material.