I liked Palookaville, but I’m not going to say it’s anything all that great. It’s a modest movie, fairly well done, more entertaining than not.
The movie is about three would-be, or part-time, criminals, who live in a world of struggling working class people, overbearing employers, and corrupt cops. Probably the most fitting word to describe all of them is “small time.” There’s a sadness to the overall circumstances, but at the individual level none of the criminals, obnoxious authority figures, or anyone else is particularly ominous or scary. Their wrongdoing is more petty and pitiful than evil. The movie is to some extent a comedy, and never very violent or disturbing.
I found myself thinking about Mondays in the Sun as I watched this movie. Both movies deal with working class men trying to survive as best they can (and mostly screwing up) in a world that has made them superfluous. Palookaville plays it a little more for laughs, but both movies encourage a certain amount of sympathy for their protagonists without making them unrealistically noble.
Mondays in the Sun has a bit more depth, more bite, to it. But I enjoyed Palookaville as much or almost as much. A lot of that is the subtitle factor (Mondays in the Sun being a foreign language film). But even aside from that, I think Palookaville on its merits is an above average film, and so below but not drastically below Mondays in the Sun.
I like what little I’ve seen of Vincent Gallo, by the way. Buffalo 66, which he directed and starred in, is one of my favorite obscure movies of the last decade or two. He plays roughly the same kind of character here—a sort of punk or low-level hoodlum type who has just enough brains, imagination, and integrity to make him more interesting and potentially more redeemable than such movie characters typically are. He seems to have a knack for playing sympathetic “losers.” Though in this movie, his two co-stars hold their own playing similar characters.
The mix of whimsical humor and seriousness mostly works well. Given my druthers, I think I would have gone with a little more seriousness, maybe a bit of a darker feel, but I wouldn’t have altered the balance substantially. For instance, I think the movie peters out with a “soft” ending. It’s not a major disappointment by any means; it’s mildly interesting, mildly humorous, and avoids an artificially happy ending that wouldn’t have fit the rest of the movie. But somehow I would have liked something a little harder hitting, a little more powerful toward the end.
For a movie that I take it was very low budget, I thought it was impressively smooth, professional, and well-acted. I never had much trouble staying interested.
So overall, Palookaville is a likable movie with likable characters, though maybe a little too light and inconsequential for me to give it a more robust recommendation.