PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Nicholas ‘Oz’ Oseransky (Matthew Perry) is a depressed, slightly neurotic American dentist working and living in Montreal, Quebec. His wife Sophie (Rosanna Arquette) and mother-in-law (Carmen Ferland) hate him, and his deceased father-in-law has saddled him with a lot of debt. At work, Oz has made friends with his receptionist, Jill (Amanda Peet), who urges him to get away from his wife who she believes is “not a good person”. Oz admits that due to his life insurance, he’s worth more dead than alive to her, but that he currently cannot afford to divorce her.
Jimmy “The Tulip” Tudeski (Bruce Willis), a hitman, moves in next door under the assumed name of “Jimmy Jones”. Having testified against the Gogolak gang, a very dangerous crime family in Chicago, Jimmy is hiding out in Canada. He immediately befriends Oz, who realizes who he is and becomes very nervous around him, but subsequently bonds with him after Jimmy invites him to show him around Montreal, Oz talking about how he ended up in his current situation.
Sophie presses Oz to travel to Chicago, where he is to meet up with Yanni Gogolak (Kevin Pollak), let him know where Jimmy “The Tulip” is and collect a finder’s fee. Oz travels to Chicago against his better judgment, but does not go to see Yanni. Oz goes to his hotel room to find another notorious hitman, Franklin Figueroa, a.k.a. “Frankie Figgs” (Michael Clarke Duncan), in his room. Frankie beats up Oz and takes him to meet Yanni. It is at this meeting he first encounters Jimmy’s wife Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge), for whom Oz immediately harbors an attraction.
At the meeting, Yanni explains that he intends to find out where Jimmy is, which Oz is coerced into admitting that he knows. Then Yanni releases Oz, with the understanding that Frankie will go with him to assassinate Jimmy. Oz returns to his room, and immediately calls Jimmy and blurts out the whole mess, apologizing to Jimmy about revealing his whereabouts and imploring him to save himself. Jimmy, sounding unruffled, tells Oz to calm down and says that not only does he already know what happened, but that he also reassures Oz that it’s all according to plan. Oz hangs up, and Cynthia arrives at the room. She reveals that some time ago, she, Jimmy and Yanni set up a joint account containing 10 million dollars. There is, however, a special stipulation – the money can only be withdrawn in person by all three principals - or two principals and the death certificate of the third, or one principal with two death certificates. Oz realizes this is Jimmy’s plan – to kill Yanni and Cynthia to get all the money. Oz and Cynthia have sex before Oz returns home with Frankie the next day.
Back home, Oz meets with Jimmy, and it is revealed that he and Frankie are friends who are working to betray Yanni, whom Frankie has told to come up to Canada himself, simultaneously intending to kill Cynthia. An increasingly paranoid Oz reveals what is happening to Jill, who becomes excited and insists that Oz introduce her.
To Oz’s shock, Jill reveals she is an aspiring “hit woman” who idolizes Jimmy. She was hired by Oz’s wife to kill him, but after going to work for him (to get a feel for his movements and work out the best time to kill him), she ended up liking him too much to go through with it. Jimmy takes a quick liking to Jill and incorporates her into his plan. Jimmy plans to set a trap for Yanni and kill him and Cynthia, which Oz objects to.
The night of the plan, Jimmy’s trap succeeds and he, a naked Jill and Frankie kill Yanni and his men. Oz flees the scene with Cynthia. A short time later, a second hit man, hired by Sophie to kill Oz, enters the house, and Jimmy shoots him dead, causing Sophie to flee the neighborhood in terror. A badge found in the dead “hit man”‘s pocket reveals him to be an undercover police officer.
When Jimmy discovers that Oz slept with Cynthia, he becomes enraged, but Oz tells Jimmy he loves Cynthia, and has an alternative plan that will mean she doesn’t have to die. Using the dead cop’s body, Oz alters his dental work to resemble Jimmy’s, and then Frankie places the body in a car with Yanni’s, before setting the car on fire.
A few days later, the burned bodies can only be identified by dental records, which match Yanni and Jimmy’s. While investigating Jimmy’s house, the police also find the dead cop’s car, and a tape recorder inside reveals Sophie’s plan to have Oz murdered. Both Sophie and her mother are arrested, the cops concluding that she killed the cop when he tried to back out of the plan.
The next day, Jill meets with Cynthia, who will collect the money with the death certificates for Yanni and Jimmy, to collect the money, which will be wired straight to Jimmy in exchange for her life. Meanwhile, Jimmy and Frankie take Oz out on a boat. Jimmy tells Oz that, ironically, he’s about to find out if Cynthia loves him back; if she doesn’t, she’ll just take the money and run, even knowing that Jimmy will kill Oz if she does. Meanwhile, Frankie takes Jimmy aside and says they have to kill Oz, who witnessed all their crimes.
At the bank, Jill tempts Cynthia with the idea of taking the money and running. Cynthia realizes that she really does love Oz, and declines. Jill, delighted, completes the transfer of the money, but arranges for $1 million to be set aside for Cynthia and Oz.
Out at sea, Jimmy has a change of heart and shoots Frankie rather than Oz. He reasons that, if he hadn’t killed Oz, Frankie would have, and then come after Jimmy later, thinking he’d gone soft.
When the boat docks, Jill lovingly runs into Jimmy’s arms. They give Oz an affectionate sendoff. Meeting Cynthia near the airport, Oz asks her to marry him. She is initially distrustful, thinking that Oz knows about the money. But he doesn’t know – he just loves her. She melts and accepts. When he mentions his debt, she smiles and says, “something tells me we’ll get by.”
The film ends with Oz and Cynthia dancing at their wedding, on a balcony overlooking Niagara Falls.
A while back, I watched the “comedy” Get Shorty, mistakenly thinking it was this film. Don’t ask me how I got the two confused, but I did. This afternoon, though, I finally got the chance to view The Whole Nine Yards, and it did not disappoint.
When your plot involves a dentist in an unhappy marriage, a wife who wants him dead for the insurance money, and a whole convoluted thing about a hit contract on the new neighbor, hilarity is sure to ensue.
Having said that, though, I can’t ignore the accent that Rosanna Arquette gave to her character. I’ve never met any French-Canadians, so I can’t judge, but that accent was just horrendously fake sounding to me.
Moving on, the fast paced tempo of this picture really kept it interesting. It isn’t very hard to see that if not for decent pacing, this film could have fallen into the boring category, not to mention got confusing.
I was actually surprised by how funny this film turned out to be. After watching Get Shorty, I assumed that this would have been another drama masquerading as a comedy, as many people seem to lump the two films together for some unknown reason. They couldn’t be further from the truth, though.
How many of us remember when Bruce Willis had hair? For me, I have to think back to his days on Moonlighting. Along that same line, his character here has the same one-liner delivery, albeit much more serene, that he did then, from what I recall. Of course, I could be dead wrong. It has been some time, after all.
Matthew Perry seems to only know how to play one kind of character. In each role I see him in, he’s this neurotic, stressed out, on the verge of a nervous breakdown kind of guy. It is basically like all of his characters are spinoffs of his character from Friends, Chandler, or at least distant relatives.
Michael Clarke Duncan is the imposing presence that one would expect him to be. Seriously, though, can you blame Oz for being freaked out when you walk into a hotel room and see this giant man sitting in there waiting for you?
Natasha Henstridge is just plain hot. That’s all I need to say about her.
Someone mentioned at one time that Amanda Peet in some films looks drop dead gorgeous and others she just looks average, which in turn affects her performance. Well, here she falls into that hot category (the nakedness and/or tight pants may have had something to do with that, though).
So, what do I ultimately think of The Whole Nine Yards? Well, it is a well crafted comedy with some thrills along the way. The story is well developed and the climax is worth the wait. Is it worth viewing? I would say so. So, why haven’t you gone to find it instead of sitting here reading this?
4 out of 5 stars