Who is Cletis Tout?
starring Tim Allen, Chrstian Slater, Richard Dreyfuss, Billy Connolly and Portia Di Rossi
written and directed by Phil Ver Weil
Called “Crime and Diamond” in Japanese, this movie was both fun and funny. Tim Allen plays a hit man, nicknamed Critical Jim, who is so obsessed with old movies that he imagines his entire life playing out liked some kind of scene in a movie. His speech is filled with references to movies, and quotations of famous lines form famous scenes are dropped throughout the film His memory of famous lines is encyclopedic and he can recall just the right quotation at any time to set or match the mood of every scene of his daily life (and his black work). His nickname is “Critical Jim” because he is always critiquing situations and events from the perspective of a film director, or a film critic.
In that way it was really fun, I thought. It reminded me of the Woody Allen movie “Bullets Over Broadway,” in which a hit man (working as a bodyguard for a gangster’s moll who is auditioning for and then rehearsing a Broadway play) is constantly critiquing the playwright’s script and stage direction, making his own theatrically brilliant suggestions about how it should be re-written and directed. In other words, the sensitive, thinking murderer, just like Tim Allen’s character Critical Jim - a murderer who cries during the love scenes.
In this movie, Critical Jim’s mark, or target is Christian Slater. Slater is an escaped convict who is helped to assume a new identity - that of a recently deceased (murdered) man. What he does not know is that the deceased man is a victim of the Mafia, and when Slater walks around town using the dead man’s identity the mafia learns about it and suddenly thinks that it missed the intended target and killed the wrong man instead. So they send Critical Jim after him. Slater does not understand why people are trying to kill him.
Slater saves himself by telling Critical Jim the story of his life as if it were a great, theatrical drama - flashbacks, interesting characters and plot twists, adventure, love, gunfights and all. It is such a romantic, occasionally tragic story that it captures Critic Jim’s imagination and he lets Slater go, alive. In the end, it is a love story and Christian Slater gets the girl (Portia Di Rossi, known to most people here for her role in the American sitcom Ally McBeal, broadcast on NHK 1 on Sunday nights.) Critical Jim is some kind of anomalous dark angel who facilitates the fulfillment of their love.