Film Scouts Reviews

"Life During Wartime"

by Richard Schwartz

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Crime is steadily declining and life is good, right? Well, not if you're Heinrich Grigoris (Stanley Tucci) and your business is selling home security alarms. Hatching a plan with his devious associate (Mary McCormack), Heinrich hopes to spike business by occasionally tripping an alarm here, knocking over a home there. And new sales stud Tommy (David Arquette), in his initial exuberance over his early success, even goes along with the plan. Well, until things begin to go a bit awry - Tommy's new flame Gale (Kate Capshaw) ends up dead following a botched home burglary. Suddenly, an enraged Tommy looks to point the finger and begins to question his boss' illicit activities.

Murder, intrigue, deception - sound a bit grim for a film billed as a comedy? Actually, writer/director Evan Dunsky's "Life During WarTime" is indeed dark, but it's extremely funny as well. Aside from his clever dialogue (adapted from a short play), Dunsky's proudest accomplishment may be in killing off a sympathetic character some three-quarters into the film but not losing the audience or spoiling the tone in the least. With a smirk and a nod, the self-billed noir comedy turns a simple storyline into an exploration of a culture paralyzed by paranoia and fear, even when the latest crime statistics show otherwise. Tucci and Arquette are first-rate in constructing a believable relationship that effectively satirizes the business world, and impressive newcomer Ryan Reynolds delivers some of "Life During WarTime"'s heartiest laughs in his brief but hilarious turn as Capshaw's son.

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