Clay Pigeons (1998)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

David Dobkin made his feature directorial debut with this comedy thriller about an ordinary guy mistakenly viewed as a serial killer by the FBI. In small-town Mercer, Montana (population 1,536), easy-going gas station attendant Clay Bidwell (Joaquin Phoenix) endures a comical nightmare that gets underway when Clay's best buddy Earl (Gregory Sporleder) learns Clay slept with Earl's wife Amanda (Georgina Cates). Earl commits suicide as a horrified Clay watches. Amanda would rather see Clay in prison than have the local gossipers chatting about their affair, so to cover-up, Clay puts Earl's body into a faked auto accident. Clay then finds comfort with waitress Gloria (Nikki Arlyn), but Amanda kills Gloria, leaving Clay to dispose of another body. At the local bar, Clay is befriended by trucker Lester Long (Vince Vaughn), and they go fishing, hooking a corpse. Lester asks Clay to tell the cops he found it alone. The next victim is Amanda, stabbed 40 times. Clay tries to explain what's going on to the law -- Sheriff Mooney (Scott Wilson) and FBI agents Dale Shelby (Janeane Garofalo) and Reynard (Phil Morris) -- but he becomes the main suspect and is arrested, while serial killer Lester is on the loose. Clay manages an escape from jail and goes in search of Lester. David Dobkin, a Ridley Scott protégé, is an award-winning director of music videos (including the Coolio clips that won MTV's "Best Dance Video of 1996") and commercials, many helmed under the auspices of Ridley and Tony Scott's production companies. Shown at the 1998 Toronto Film Festival.
R (for strong scenes of sexuality, language and violence)
Art House & International , Comedy , Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Gramercy Pictures

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Vince Vaughn
as Lester Long
Joaquin Phoenix
as Clay Bidwell
Janeane Garofalo
as Agent Dale Shelby
Scott Wilson
as Sheriff Mooney
Vince Vieluf
as Deputy Barney
Wayne Brennan
as Minister
Nikki Arlyn
as Gloria
Jeff Olson
as Mark
Monica Moench
as Kimberly
Kevin Rahm
as Bystander at Amanda's
Jesse Bennett
as Dr. Jaffe
Phil Morris
as Agent Reynard
Zane Parker
as Dr. Buckley
Ryan Mouritsen
as Pizza Delivery Kid
Kari Peterson
as Dolores
Duane Stephens
as Bartender
Steven Anderson
as Old Man Waiter
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Critic Reviews for Clay Pigeons

All Critics (52) | Top Critics (11)

Slanted as a black comedy, but fails to secure the sufficiently outre tone (let alone any real suspense) needed to make it more than a middling retread.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

This quirky comedy thriller, produced by Ridley Scott, is both blackly funny and, at times, tensely disturbing and quite macabre.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

"You've got a sense of humor, I like that," Lester Long proclaims at one point. Well, we all like that, but would it be asking too much to have a little coherence to go along with it?

Full Review… | February 13, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Within Clay Pigeons is a smaller story that might have involved us more, but it's buried by overkill.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

A film that delights by confounding expectations.

December 31, 1999
New York Times
Top Critic

Clay Pigeons may not actually be a good movie, but it has many of the ingredients of one.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Clay Pigeons

"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


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.

Melvin White
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

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'. :)

Tim Salmons
Tim Salmons

Super Reviewer

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