Friday February 21, 1997

     "Flipping" flops. Gangster pictures don't come any phonier than this misfired attempt to set down a bunch of sub-Scorsese good fellas, none of whom seem to have ever spent a moment west of New Jersey, on the side streets of Hollywood. Writer-director Gene Mitchell's first feature plays like an actor's workshop exercise--"Flipping" did in fact begin in a workshop--that had no business being filmed for public consumption.
     It's dismaying to see as many proven actors come across so overly theatrical and therefore unconvincing. The key exception is the veteran Barry Primus, who clearly realizes the distinction between playing under a proscenium and for the camera.
     One thing makes sense: Nobody but a bunch of dummies would work for as violent, cheap and mercurial a leader as Keith David's Leo. (Get this: Leo is also a wannabe cabaret singer.) The entire film is composed of double-crosses upon double-crosses to the extent that by the time that a long-winded 102 minutes have passed, everyone has killed off everyone else. There's absolutely no reason to be concerned with these crooks: They're stupid, brutal and unfunny. They're not drawn from life but from the countless underworld movies that preceded them.
     The one fresh idea that Mitchell has is to have a gay undercover cop (David Proval) fall in love with the most ambitious member of the gang (David Amos), but this relationship not only rings false but remains peripheral until the film's ending. In the credit-where-credit-is-due department, let it be noted that Phil Parmet's fluid, highly atmospheric camera work is better than "Flipping" deserves.


Flipping, 1997. R, for strong violence and language. A Dove International release of a Mon Frere production. Writer-director Gene Mitchell. Producers Mitchell and David Amos. Executive producer Michael Woods. Cinematographer Phil Parmet. Editor Kevin Krasny. Costumes Nadine Reimer. Production designer Diane Hughes. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes. Keith David as Leo Richards. David Proval as Billy White. David Amos as Michael Moore. Barry Primus as Joey.