Clay Pigeons - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Clay Pigeons Reviews

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Super Reviewer
September 5, 2009
"What an interesting film. I didn't really know much about it before seeing it. But with Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Phoenix being in the film, you really can't pass that up. So glad I made the choice to watch it. I really liked it. The acting was good on most parts. That being just from the two leads and a couple side characters. Vince stole the show though. He was evil, but likable. It made it a little difficult to be disgusted with him since he was such a charmer. I am not sure what that says about me, but anyways. I really liked his performance in this. The movie moves along quickly which leaves you little room to be bored. If you like morbid comedie's and a good old serial killer flick, this one will suit you just fine."
Super Reviewer
½ June 2, 2011
Clay Pigeons is a very odd but good indie thriller. It's David Dobkins; who would later go on to direct the more commercially successful Wedding Crashers, debut film. The plot is entertaining but what really makes the movie is Joaquin Phoenix. Vince Vaughn seems like a weird choice for Lester but does do a decent job. David Dobkin showed some promise with Clay Pigeons and Wedding Crashers, but I think he can and will do better.
Super Reviewer
January 5, 2009
A very unlikely cast of people in an unlikely production from Scott Free makes for good bedfellows. First and foremost, this is a discussion film. You are NOT given all of the answers at the end of the movie, only the outcome. After you watch it, you'll want to discuss with someone's whose seen it to make sure that either you got everything right, you didn't understand it at all, or use it an excuse to argue over the plot. If that's your cup of tea, I highly recommend this movie. It's a well-executed thriller comedy that's just a bit rough around the edges. Joaquin shines here. Vince Vaugn, is, well, Vince Vaugn...not perfect, but too damned likeable to dismiss altogether. The supporting cast is also put to very good use. The plot plays out mysteriously and well, even if there are some holes here and there. My complaints lie only in the cinematography and some of the character development (one can look at this film as a forerunner to the perfection that is 'No Country For Old Men'). On a real personal note, I rather liked the plug for 'Alien'. :)
Super Reviewer
November 15, 2006
Sheriff Mooney: Promise me something there, will you?
Clay Bidwell: What's that?
Sheriff Mooney: Promise you'll stop finding dead people.

This is a little known flick from 1998 starring Joaquin Phoenix and Vince Vaughn, before they became big stars. It's a quirky dark comedy mixed with a mild noir thriller. It has a plot and style clearly influence by movies such as Fargo, Blood Simple and Strangers on a Train.

Director Dennis Dobkin, who would go on to make Wedding Crashers with Vaughn, has been given the chance here to make a quirky character comedy/thriller with visual flare akin to Ridley and Tony Scott, who served as producers on the movie.

The story is set in Mercer, Montana. Phoenix plays Clay, whose best friend has just killed himself in an attempt to frame Clay since he had an affair with his wife Amanda (see what I mean by quirky... in a dark way).

After Clay deals with the body, his problems continue as Amanda makes his life a living hell for him and more unfortunate incidents occur.

Lester Long: You don't know the half of it. I'm like a big fireworks show. I'm pretty bright. Like Lite Brite.

A mysterious cowboy character turns up, calling himself Lester (Vaughn) and befriends Clay, attempting to be his friend. From what we can see of Lester, he is a charmer and loves to have a good laugh and go fishing.

Problems arise as more bodies turn up, prompting an FBI Agent, Janeane Garofalo, to arrive in search of a serial killer, who has stabbed quite a number of women in the area.

You also have the town sheriff, played by Scott Wilson, who may be smarter than he seems to figure out the truth behind the crimes going on.

One thing is for sure, Clay is having a rough month.

This movie is effective in the same way that most Cohen brother films are. The story is fairly simple, but it revolves around characters that we like to observe. They don't necessarily have an arc, but its nice to familiarize ourselves with them and see what happens next.

The three leads are all good, the story works well despite fumbling a bit at the end, it balances the tone well, and the soundtrack is pretty good.

Its a fun little movie if a bit dark.

Dale Shelby: Whoa, Whoa, Whoa! You're standing in evidence!
Sheriff Mooney: Barney!
Dale Shelby: Your deputy's name is Barney? That's great.
Super Reviewer
November 20, 2006
Not great, not bad.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
April 23, 2012
Ah, the early days of Joaquin Phoenix; back when he first changed his name from Leaf Phoenix; though maybe he could have gone with a better name than Clay Pigeons. Hey, considering how much his family seemed to love birds and the elements, that could be bought as his name, but thank goodness he went back to his cool, real name, unless Clay Pigeons actually is his real name. Maybe he changed it to Joaquin Phoenix before his real name got too far out, either because he didn't want a lame name if he was gonna become a successful actor, or because he felt oppressed by the Clay name, became Cassius X Pigeons, and subsequently adopted his new cool name that definately sounds better in boxing. ...Muhammad Ali jokes, anyone? Sorry people, but it's really hard to make a joke about a comedy, and with this film being about some wacky, Vince Vaughn-played redneck framing his buddy... for several horrible murders, you can definately expect a wild fun time. Actually, in all fairness, this really was pretty funny, though it's still not quite as laughable as that certain other 1998 serial killer movie that Vince Vaughn was in. Okay, I haven't seen Gus Van Sant's "Psycho", but if it is as much of a mess as everyone says, then I'm going to give Vince Vaughn the benefit of the doubt and say that the reason why that movie slipped up so bad was because they thought it was a good idea to get the guy that did "Good Will Hunting", or at least that's what I though until I saw enough bits and pieces of "The Cell" at one point to tell you that Vince Vaughn is certainly no terribly good actor, let alone horror movie actor, unless he's playing a messed up guy in a dark comedy, because in that department, he knows how to deliver, though not quite thoroughly enough for us to completely laugh away all of the problems in the film.

This film marks David Dobkin's first attempt at feature film directing, and while he does do a mostly good job at it, and certainly a better job than you'd expect him to do with a film of this type, the storytelling makes that fact fairly obvious. The storytelling is on, what I call, "Freeflow Storytelling", in that it doesn't break in resonance or slow down, and while this film does have some depth of intrigue, it needs a break every now and again. Now, you still get your recommended dose of exposition, yet the storytelling feels like it's in a hurry, leaving many an event to fall into place too conveniently to feel organic, and leaving some development between tonal shifts to go glossed over, leaving the film to feel tonally inconsistent from time to time. The film doesn't slow down, but neither is it built to have such freeflow in tone, and that's a flaw that we've seen in plenty films of this type, and more often than not, the final product comes out as, not necessarily unrewarding, but without enough organic pow in the resonance to really leave any really deep impression, leaving the final product to come off as barely, if at all terribly memorable. However, note that I said that Dobkin did a better job of directing this than you'd expect him to with a film like this, because, where the film could have fallen flat and into that aforecited pile of enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable small-time dark comedies, it comes out to be one of your better ones. Sure, it's no knockout, being plagued by the problems mentioned, as well as its being, to certain degree, a little too tonally similar to other films of its type, and yet, it transcends expectations, nevertheless, through Dobkin's fine taste in wit and other aspects that showed some high potential in him. If nothing else, the boy knows style more than you'd expect him to.

Now, as much as I've been going on and on about how this film does the unexpected, I really didn't expect it to look this good, which isn't to say that it looks like something Terrence Malick would come up with, though it is to say that the film has a lot of visual pop and crisp with a handsome glow to it that both catches your eye, and gives this film charm, as well as some artistic depth to make the darker stuff feel more organic. Sure, as I said, Dobkin's build-up to the darker aspects stand to be comfortable, but when it comes down to fully shifting the tone, while it is somewhat jarring, on the whole, it's a fairly organic twist, partially because, if there is any jar, most of it is covered up by the fact Dobkin's really understands tone. Sure, the versatility in that tone is decidedly imperfect, as far as organic, dynamic flow is concerned, but whether it be through his manipulation of the sharp soundtrack and editing, or simply a firm grip on atmosphere, Dobkin nails the darker aspects with oomph and some tension to produce consistent intrigue, and the more humorous aspect with wit and some pretty darn effective jokes to produce consistent charm, really bringing Matt Healy's sharp screenply to life, and with plenty of entertainment value. Still, responsibility for the execution of a good screenplay lays, not only with the director, but the performers that have to carry the product, and with a comedy talent like Vince Vaughn and an all-around acting talent like Joaquin Phoenix calling the shots, you can expect some deliverance in the performance department. Sure, just about everyone in the film is good and memorable, but our definate standouts remain the leads, such as Vince Vaughn, who is not one to be subtle, nor, as I stated earlier, a terribly good actor, but he's shockingly, not good, but excellent in this film, not just with that shockingly sharp redneck accent, but also with that kind of thorough charm that can be found within the Lester Long character, or at least until his darker side surfaces, at which point, Vince Vaughn, against all extents and purposes, believe it or not, absolutely nails that sociopathic disturbance with, yes, [u][b]subtlety, powerful grace and compelling tension in his presence[/b][/u] (Seriously, Vince Vaughn?), which isn't to say that he stands a chance of doing even close to as good of a job in his certain other serial killer role of 1998, because, come on, it's still "Vince Vaughn" as "Norman Bates", but it is to say that he really fires on more cylinders than you would ever have expected him to as this kind of charming maniac of an antagonist. As for Joaquin Phoenix, well, come on, it's Joaquin Phoenix, so of course he's awesome, really delivering on a kind of cool charm that nails his Clay Bidwell character's presence as trustworthy sharp-shooter, as well as a laid-back down-to-earth. However, being that he's such a powerful actor, it's the more dramatic aspects in which Phoenix really shines, as the Clay Bidwell character faces much tragedy and danger, and with it, subtle panic, deep anguish and an overall sense of emotional claustrophobia, all aspects that Phoenix nails effortlessly, never really given enough material to really blow you away, but whether it through a quietly tense moment of him simply gazing off, pondering the situation at hand, or simply giving off a graceful presence, Phoenix is as much a compelling lead as he is a charming one.

In conclusion, the fluid-to-a-fault storytelling moves a little too quickly for certain pieces of tonal transition and build-up to fall into place very organically, and yet, then-first-time director David Dobkin carries his film past most of its missteps by not only really hitting stylistically, but nailing the charm, as well as the tension within Matt Healy's clever, layered and all around sharp screenplay, which is also really powered by fine performances by all involved, especially our leads, Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Phoenix, both of whom deliver on both electric charisma, as well as graceful depth, when the time comes, making them one of the key factors in making "Clay Pigeons" a thoroughly entertaining and often chilling dark comedy that also serves as quite the testament to the talent and potential of the talents both on and off of the screen.

3/5 - Good
Super Reviewer
November 25, 2007
A nice little thriller that was seen by far too few people. The best turn is taken by Jeaneanne Garofalo who gets a pretty straight forward role to portray here and does well with it.
Super Reviewer
May 7, 2011
Comedy about Joaquin Phoenix, a guy whose acquaintances keep saddling him with dead bodies to deal with. Vince Vaughn, Phoenix and Jane Garofalo are all young and fresh faced, but like the plot, lightweight. The only thing keeping me watchng was the hope that the ineffectual Phoenix would end up victim too at some point. Did you ever watch a film that's wall-to-wall inplausability kicked off with an unlikelihood to justify the whole shenanigans? Clay Pigeons, my version.... 1) 1st corpse turns up. 2) Clay goes to the police 3) End of story.
Super Reviewer
½ August 19, 2010
Vince Vaughn proves his range, even if it is him acting like himself with a country twang.
The first hour of this film is pretty fun. Vaughn is electric and funny, and I kind of wanted to see what happens. But, the ending left a sour taste in my mouth, reminding me of Woody Allen's Match Point.
I hate when films and scripts think people can honestly get away with murder. It's just unrealistic these days. It's an OK story, but it loses its flair midway through.
Super Reviewer
½ November 17, 2008
This was an interesting movie. A very different role for Vince Vaughn
Super Reviewer
½ July 7, 2007
Clay Bidwell has been having an affair with his friend's wife, Amanda, who in turn catches Clay in bed with a waitress from the local diner. To make his life even more miserable, some oddball truck driver named Lester Long believes that he and Clay have become best buddies. In the sleepy Montana town in which he resides, death seems to be following Clay. Death has become so much a part of Clay's world that he's asked to stop finding dead bodies. Eventually, the FBI gets involved when it's discovered that a serial killer they've been chasing may be responsible for some of the bodies and Clay becomes the prime suspect in their investigation. Joaquin Phoenix is perfect as Clay, as is Georgina Cates as the trampy Amanda. Sheriff Mooney is played with subtlety by Scott Wilson and Janeane Garofalo is her sarcastic self as Agent Shelby. Surprisingly, it's Vince Vaughn's brilliant portrayal of Lester that makes this dark comedy/crime drama an overall success.
Super Reviewer
March 16, 2006
Joaquin is amazing, but of course, when is he ever not?!?!
½ October 6, 2013
Starts out great. But peters out. Hell its starts with a BANG! What happened to the direction? I know, Jeanne Garfalo appeared on the set and the movie went to shit. She has a remarkable way of doing this! I wish the homoerotic relationship between Vince Vaughn's and Joaquin Phoenix would have been explored. Total tacked on Hollywood ending.
February 17, 2012
I thought that the movie was great and no, not just because of the Joaquin love scenes so shut up. I actually thought Georgia Cates and Vince Vaughn were great.

It was clever and even though the plot was impropable, but it was believable because the acting was well done.
½ January 9, 2012
Never really got into this one. Good cast of actors but nothing award worthy. Another hair lip reminder of how much we miss. River Phoenix
½ April 17, 2010
This movie always entertains me as it winds its journey. Great performances pepper this and little twists are well done.
½ August 1, 2009
I just re-watched this and really liked it, it is better than I remembered actually. cool and weird story with some great twists and turns.
July 25, 2009
Great retro-noir film starring Joaquin Phoenix as Clay Bidwell, an average guy whose life begins to unravel when his best friend commits suicide due to an affair Clay had with his wife. Things get even more complicated for Clay when Lester Long, a charming and overly friendly drifter played brilliantly by Vince Vaughn comes to town and befriends the troubled Clay. Bodies begin piling up and Clay gets caught up in a race against time to clear himself of any wrong doing and bring the killer to justice. An extremely well done and entertaining film.
½ May 25, 2009
A movie that shows a) you never know who you're dealing with and b) what you don't know can come back to haunt you. Well done.
March 11, 2009
Vince Vaughn is my favorite comedic actor. His laugh in this movie kills me...this is one of the best movies ever made.
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