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Kingpin is a 1996 slapstick comedy film, directed by the Farrelly brothers and starring Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Vanessa Angel, and Bill Murray. It was filmed in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker as a stand-in for Scrantonmarker, Amish country and even Reno, Nevadamarker.

Plot

Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson) is a bowling prodigy who wins the 1979 Iowamarker state amateur championship and plans to leave his tiny hometown of Ocelot to go on the Professional Bowlers Tour. He wins his first tournament, defeating an established pro named Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray) in the finals and earning his enmity. McCracken sabotages Roy's car, then convinces him to join in a bowling cash game hustle for the money to repair it. The scheme goes awry when the marks realize they've been hustled; Roy is abandoned by McCracken and the angered marks amputate Roy's right hand by shoving it into a bowling ball-return mechanism.

In present day, a down-and-out Munson sports a prosthetic hook covered with a fake rubber hand and sells bowling alley supplies for a living, with little success. Roy resides in a seedy apartment building in Scranton, Pennsylvaniamarker where an unpleasant landlady is constantly after him to pay overdue rent. On a sales call, Munson catches sight of an Amish man, Ishmael Boorg (Randy Quaid), rolling a respectable game. Munson tries to convince Ishmael to turn pro, with him acting as manager. Ishmael declines the offer as he has little interest in worldly affairs — bowling is his only vice.

After having unwanted sex with his repulsive landlady in lieu of rent, Roy sees a headline on a bowling magazine advertising a $1,000,000 winner-take-all tournament in Reno, Nevadamarker. Roy poses as an Amish man and visits the Boorg family home to once again try to convince Ishmael to enter the tournament, with Roy as his manager. Ishmael reluctantly agrees when he receives news that the Amish community will lose their land unless a $500,000 payment can be raised.

Roy discovers that Ishmael isn't as skilled as he first thought as Ishmael's self-claimed 270 average is based on a 15-frame game, instead of the standard 10 frames — based on the notion that the Amish are obligated by tradition to do everything "half-again" as much as everyone else. Roy decides to take Ishmael home since he no longer believes Ishmael can win the $1,000,000. Ishmael convinces Roy to give him another chance and take him to Reno. Roy reluctantly agrees and after some coaching along the way Ishmael's game steadily improves.

During the road trip, Roy introduces Ishmael to worldly vices. The pair wind up at mansion owned by a hoodlum named Stanley whom they plan to hustle. After Stanley realizes the pair has tried to con him he confronts and threatens them with violence. His girlfriend Claudia (Vanessa Angel), to whom he has been abusive, helps the pair escape and together they all continue on the road to Reno. Ishmael's improved bowling skills, combined with Claudia's ability to distract male bowlers with her sexuality, helps to gain the trio a significant bankroll as they hustle on the way to Reno. Claudia dislikes Roy's exploitation of Ishmael and their relationship becomes strained. Roy tries to abandon Claudia and leave with Ishmael on his own but she thwarts his plan and they begin to fight. During the fight Ishmael become disillusioned and runs off on his own. When Roy and Claudia realize Ishmael has left they hit the road to search for him. During the search, they make a stop in Ocelot, and Claudia's attitude towards Roy softens when she learns that he was too ashamed of his failure to return home even for his father's funeral. They finally find Ishmael, reunite as a trio, and reach Reno.

Roy runs into McCracken, who is now a bowling celebrity entered in the $1,000,000 tournament. McCracken insults Roy, reminds Claudia of an affair they once had and infuriates Ishmael to the point where Ishmael takes a swing at him. McCracken ducks and Ishmael hits a wall and breaks his hand, leaving him unable to bowl. To make matters worse, Stanley tracks Claudia to Reno, steals the trio's bankroll and forces Claudia to leave with him. Hurt and confused by Claudia's apparent abandonment, Ishmael tries to convince Roy that they still have a chance to win the $1,000,000 — if Roy will bowl. Roy finally agrees and enters the tournament.

McCracken handily makes the finals where Roy meets him after a Cinderella run against pro bowlers Mark Roth and Randy Pedersen. The two competitors are evenly matched heading into the final frame, until Ishmael's brother arrives and forces Ishmael to immediately leave to go back home. When Roy realizes Ishmael has abandoned him, he becomes distracted and rolls a 7-10 split. However, Roy is able to convert the most difficult of splits thereby forcing McCracken to roll three strikes to win the tournament — which McCracken ultimately does. Meanwhile, while on the road with Stanley, Claudia has been watching the televised final from a bar and is touched by Roy's heartfelt, near-successful comeback. After losing the final and his chance at $1,000,000 along with his rubber hand, Roy sits disillusioned during McCracken's victory celebration until he finally screams out in pain and frustration at the unfairness of the loss and his apparent abandonment by Ishmael and Claudia.

Roy returns to his seedy apartment where he is surprised by an unexpected visitor at his door. Claudia has returned with the bankroll that she has taken from Stanley and which has since been doubled when Stanley bet against Roy in the final. Claudia proposes the stash be split three-ways between Roy, Ishmael and herself. However, Roy surprises Claudia by showing her a $500,000 check he has received from Trojan condoms for an endorsement deal — thanks to his fake hand which earned him the nickname "Rubber Man" during the ESPN televised final. Roy pointedly states that the money is going to be split "one-way".

The story ends with Roy sitting together with Claudia in the Boorg household after having given the $500,000 to the Amish so their community can be saved. Roy has also covered for Ishmael's indiscretions while away from the Amish community and has portrayed him as a hero to his family.

Reception

The film received mixed to slightly positive reviews from critics. It currently garners a 54% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert had one of the more noteworthy positive reviews, giving it 3.5 out of 4 stars. Likewise, Gene Siskel enthusiastically endorsed the film, putting it on his list of the ten best films of the year, as he would with the Farellys' There's Something About Mary; the directors would subsequently dedicate their film Me, Myself & Irene to him.

This film is number 67 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies".

External links



References

  1. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1072385-kingpin/
  2. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19960126/REVIEWS/601260302/1023
  3. http://www.listsofbests.com/list/7092/compare/GBrady?page=2



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