Clay Pigeons (1998)

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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.

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Cast

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
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
Duane Stephens
as Bartender
Steven Anderson
as Old Man Waiter
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News & Interviews for Clay Pigeons

Critic Reviews for Clay Pigeons

All Critics (53) | Top Critics (12)

Better luck next time, guys. And, Janeane, try working with less smarty-pantsed material if you can. You know I'm pulling for you.

Feb 5, 2018 | Full Review…
CNN.com
Top Critic

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.

Mar 26, 2009
Variety
Top Critic

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

Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
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?

Feb 14, 2001 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

This is one of those motion pictures where the director (David Dobkin, in his feature debut) and the writer (Matt Healy) are so concerned about developing a clever, serpentine plot that they forget that there has to be a credible ending.

Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

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

Jan 1, 2000

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."

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♥˩ƳИИ ƜѲѲƉƧ♥

Super Reviewer

½

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

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.

Aaron Neuwirth
Aaron Neuwirth

Super Reviewer

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