By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By Claire Lawton
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Anna Merlan
Kevin Corrigan doesn't act as much as he seems to stumble from scene to scene, like a guy who doesn't follow a script as much as his own internal stage directions. He's got skin so pale it's almost translucent, and he wears the face of a guy who's always this far from being so stoned he can't speak. His mug is an enormous fill-in-the-blank, and he expresses himself not with his eyes, but with his eyelids; they're always half-shut, as though he's about to nod off in mid-sentence--only he doesn't have the energy to do even that. Fact is, Corrigan always looks a little kicked in the head, no matter what movie he's in.
In some ways, Corrigan's the perfect leading man of the indie-film, art-house, post-slacker '90s: In Walking and Talking, Bandwagon (which will make its way to Dallas one of these days), and now Kicked in the Head (the last of which he co-wrote), he portrays young men with nothing better to do than look for something better to do. The first time he shows up in Bandwagon, a rather mediocre rock-and-roll fantasy about a band on the verge of the verge of making it, he's strolling small-town streets while puffing on a joint. The first time he shows up in Kicked in the Head, he's scooting down a New York sidewalk, once again rushing to get nowhere. Playing a mid-20s Lower East Sider named Redmond, he tells his Uncle Sam (James Woods) he's out on the streets because his apartment burned down; and, besides, he's collecting information for his book about life and seeking some, like, truth, man.
In the end, Kicked in the Head is on a journey too--only it seeks a plot, a reason for its own existence. It has no beginning or end; it merely starts and stops, as though filming began on a lark and ended when the money ran out. We come in during a car heist (Uncle Sam swipes a Lincoln Continental and happens across Redmond) and leave the movie in the middle of a kiss. What happens between is a rather messy and surprisingly delightful middle that involves Redmond's best friend, Stretch (Michael Rapaport), a beer distributor involved in a messy turf war with the guys over at Beer-O-Rama; a missing brick of cocaine that belongs to Rocky's Burt Young; Happy (Lili Taylor), a young woman who has devoted her life to stalking Redmond until he falls in love with her; Megan (Linda Fiorentino), a stewardess who may or may not be the love of Redmond's pitiful little existence; and a dog dragging around a shopping cart.
Kicked in the Head is nothing more than a goof, a low-rent After Hours in which Redmond bounces from one situation to another without any say-so; his life is out of control, a series of comic sketches looking for their place on the Must-See TV schedule (talk about a show about nothing). He gets caught in the middle of two shoot-outs, molested by a buddy's girlfriend, threatened by a drug-dealing mobster, hunted by a would-be lover--but never is he in any danger; his life happens to him, not the other way around. The only thing he's sure of is that he's in love with Megan--the angel, he tells her, who will give eyesight to the blind man. "And the blind man is me," he tells her with the sincerity of a madman, and it's hard to decide whether she's touched by his words or frightened by them. If Corrigan's face is a blank slate, Fiorentino's is jagged rock.
Redmond's so full of doo-doo he breathes fart: His idea of deep conversation is asking whether there were people on the planet before Adam and Eve and discussing the plots of the Planet of the Apes films. It's also hinted at that perhaps his apartment burned down after he was evicted. ("Rent is not necessary," he tells Fiorentino at one point, and he says it as though it were an indisputable fact.) After all, he's obsessed with the Hindenburg; when something goes wrong with his own life, his head fills with the infamous newsreel footage of the airship exploding into flame and people screaming as they fry. (Kicked in the Head might well be the art-house equivalent of HBO's Dream On.)
Redmond comes from a long line of con men and creeps. His Uncle Sam is only one of them, a fast-buck scammer played by Woods as though he's too busy to star in a movie such as this; he talks so fast, he's two pages ahead of everybody else and on his way to the catering truck. Sam and Redmond are cut from the same tattered cloth: They don't know what they want, but they know how to get it. Fiorentino's flight attendant--"I'm a stewardess," she snarls--is also of their breed: She sees in Redmond a temporary respite from a life spent handing out peanuts to strangers, and though she's loath to get involved with "young boys who are in trouble," she's quick to hop the Redmond bound for disaster.
Director and co-writer Matthew Harrison has fashioned a movie in which so much of so little goes on, you're left wondering what happened to the last 90 minutes. Yet Kicked in the Head is inexplicably charming, perhaps because it seems to genuinely care about people so utterly unlikable. Either that, or it's the work of con men.
Kicked in the Head.
Kevin Corrigan, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Rapaport, James Woods, and Burt Young. Written by Matthew Harrison and Kevin Corrigan. Directed by Harrison.
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