DVD review: Pete Smalls is Dead

01:38, Apr 03 2014
DVD review: Pete Smalls is Dead
DVD review: Pete Smalls is Dead

DVD review: Pete Smalls is Dead

(Vendetta Films, M)

Pete Smalls is Dead is a disjointed ramble through the more god-forsaken parts of Los Angeles (and, later Mexico) with an A-list cast and a Z-grade script.

Game of Thrones' diminutive Peter Dinklage plays KC, a literally washed-up screenwriter (he owns a laundry business) whose faithful dog Buddha is kidnapped by a loan shark he owes a lot of money to. Foolishly enlisting the help of his old pal Jack, (Sons of Anarchy's Mark Boone Jr) the pair embark on an unhinged, noir-ish investigation that sounds on paper like it should be a romp, but is mostly just confusing. 

Along the way they encounter a colourful cast including Theresa Wayman (from the band Warpaint); a bewigged Steve Buscemi; Dinklage's Game of Thrones onscreen sibling Lena Heady; and some other good actors including Seymour Cassell, Carol Kane and Rosie Perez.

Perhaps self-reflexively, the convoluted story also involves a hunt for a Z-grade script.


Pete Smalls is Dead will make you nostalgic for the mid '90s, when it seemed, in the post-Tarantino tsunami of hipster coolness, that all films were being made with such grungy affability as director Alexandre Rockwell (In the Soup) tries and fails to achieve. 

Pete Smalls is Dead is nowhere near as good as it wants to be. Striving for the instant legend status of, say, The Big Lebowski, it ends up being an unmemorable mishmash of at least 20 other films.

An appearance, towards the end, of Tim Roth as a hackneyed Harry Lime figure manipulating everything behind the scenes, as well as Rockwell's employment of that uber-lazy technique to convey the narrative, the explanatory-voiceover-to-join-the-dots-for-the-viewer, are among its many sins.

But, like a loveable old friend who habitually keeps messing up, it's hard to stay mad at Pete Smalls.  Amid the frustratingly convoluted plot there are some genuinely fun and memorable moments ... which almost makes Pete Smalls is Dead a worthwhile watch. Almost.