Steal Big, Steal Little (1995)

ANDREW DAVIS

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB

USA, 1995, Story by , , , Screenplay by Andrew Davis, , , .   Cinematography by .   Produced by , Andrew Davis.  Music by Production Design by .   Costume Design by .   Film Editing by , .   Toronto International Film Festival 1995.

Twin brothers Robert and Ruben, both played by Andy Garcia, were adopted by wealthy philanthropist when they were small children, having lost their parents to a raid by immigration authorities that sent them back to Mexico (and who never tried to find their children again, apparently, since nothing is mentioned of them ever again).  Now adults, they’ve gone their separate ways, with Robert taking after his bloodthirsty capitalist father and Ruben a do-gooder like his mother who only cares about community (which we know because he wears a lot of vests and, because this is a movie set in California, community mainly takes the form of sun-drenched Sunday picnics).  When Taylor dies and leaves her vast estate to Ruben in the hopes of protecting her lands from development by Robert, the bad brother pulls out all the stops in trying to get the property from his twin, using his connections in the legal world and law enforcement to make sure his real estate deal goes through.  Ruben gathers together his scrappy band of merry men (and women) to fight Robert every step of the way, which takes up most of the wandering plot of this overlong and uncomfortable blend of story elements.  There’s a feeling that Andrew Davis, fresh off the success of his Oscar-winning The Fugitive, is going for his dream project, it hints at a longing for epic status in the way it takes the form of a multi-generational saga, but it also abandons its charming Milagro Beanfield War vibe and gives in to goofy comedy manipulation whenever it worries about losing the audience’s attention.  Garcia’s characters aren’t much deeper than what you got from Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou and he doesn’t have much to offer them more than his slicked hair as Robert and floppy locks as Ruben (they both get to enjoy that Cheshire cat grin).  A host of supporting actors, including as Ruben’s wife and Alan Arkin as his mouthy best friend, come in handy and veritably shine, but this movie is an outright stinker that should be avoided despite its few highlights.

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