A hit man. A timid dentist. A greedy wife. A bunch of vicious killers. And ten million dollars.
Sounds like a recipe for mayhem? You're absolutely correct...and in "The Whole Nine Yards", director Jonathan Lynn and scriptwriter Mitchell Kapner have whipped these ingredients into what has to be one of the year's most sparkling movies, one which scores a bulls-eye on account of both its diverse cast and its very, very funny story.
Nicholas "Oz" Oseransky (Matthew Perry) is a dentist living in Montreal, working hard to pay off the debts incurred by his spendthrift, bitter wife, Sophie (Rosanna Arquette). One day, when returning from work, he sees a new neighbour moving in next door to him. When he goes over to introduce himself, he realizes that the new neighbour is notorious mob hit-man, Jimmy "The Tulip" Tudeski (Bruce Willis), currently in hiding after squealing on the Gogolack mob "family" in Chicago.
Persuaded by Sophie to fly to Chicago to tell Yanni Gogolack (Kevin Pollak) of Jimmy's whereabouts in the hope of a finder's fee, Oz soon finds that he's bitten off more than he can chew. Not only does he meet and fall hopelessly in love with Jimmy's beautiful wife, Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge), but he's forced to return to Montreal with Gogolack's enforcer, Frankie Figs (Michael Clarke Duncan), to find and kill Jimmy. In the meanwhile, Sophie has told Jimmy what Oz is up to, hoping that Jimmy will kill Oz and leave her to enjoy the life insurance.
The scene is thus set for mayhem unlimited - especially when you toss into the mix Jill St. Clair (Amanda Peet), Oz's bubbly assistant and wannabe hit-woman who's hoping that Jimmy can get her into the business; a hired assassin gunning for Oz; and a complicated scheme involving ten million dollars, which has Jimmy, Cynthia and Gogolack all out for each other's blood. Suddenly in the middle of what looks like an all-out mob war, Oz finds that the only thing he can depend on is his dentist's drill...
With so many intersecting plot lines, "The Whole Nine Yards" could very well have failed; luckily, however, it succeeds fabulously, primarily due to the deft direction and light-hearted approach it takes. Matthew Perry does a great job as the dentist trapped in a situation his years of training have left him unprepared for, while Bruce Willis plays the tough, sardonic, always-cool-under-pressure "Tulip" with the same comic flair we first saw in "Moonlighting" oh-so-many years ago. In the supporting roles, Amanda Peet and Michael Clarke-Duncan are excellent - Duncan, in particular, is very good as Frankie Figs, the mob enforcer with a soft heart.
Well-developed characters, a storyline bristling with black humour and great one-liners ("You've killed 17 men and you think my wife's not a good person?"), beautiful Canadian countryside, and some wildly funny plot twists, all mixed into a heady cocktail of vice, violence and romance make this a movie well worth killing for!This article was first published on 10 Aug 2000.