The Ref Cover Some people say 'Crime doesn't pay', and that the only reason thieves and murderers take up this lawless profession, is because they can't be bothered doing anything else. Well, to those people I say 'Go and f*ck a duck you a$$-monkey'. Or alternatively, please watch this 93 minute film made in 1994, Directed by: Ted Demme; and Starring: Denis Leary, Judy Davis, and Kevin Spacey. I thank you!

The Ref

When I come to think about it, I suppose this 'job' was an easy thing to do. Me, Gus the cat-burglar (Denis Leary), was going to break into a stately mansion. Swipe some jewels. And then make my escape with some help from my getaway driver, Murray (Richard Bright).

But no. Things don't really play out in the way I hoped they would, do they? First the alarm system goes off at the exact same moment I've got the jewels in my hands. Then Murray run's away because the police suddenly show up primed to pounce. Before finally I take it upon myself to take a couple of saps hostages so I can make my escape.

Yeah. That's right. Lloyd and Caroline (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) are the saps names. And Jesus Christ, arguing with each other is defiantly their game. They argue with each other as soon as I barge my way into their car. They argue with each other when they take me back to their home at gun point. Plus they even argue with each other once I tie them both up, whilst I call Murray on the phone for him to get me the hell out of there.

Yet Murray isn't the next person who pop's up in my life, is he? It's 'the son'. Jesse (Robert J. Steinmiller Jr.). A swindler. A confused little army brat. And someone else who just grates on my nerves as time ticks on a tick at a time.

Still. I suppose that is why what next transpires all goes Swedish when we have visitors for dinner. As a mother is a right witch - I can't wait to have a b*tch - Lloyd and Caroline give as good as they get - and I'll tell you something, I'm not going to be no teachers pet.

When I first sat down and watched 'The Ref', I honestly thought it would be one of those jovial crime capers where a thief take's a middle-aged couple hostage and hilarity ensues. Granted, to some extent it was just that. By in large it was a very funny film -- especially the witty dialogue -- and I really did warm up to the three principle characters quite a lot. Yet, in the same breath, there was something that didn't quite click for me in its execution. Something to do with how it's pacing was rather lop-sided, and how its overall construction was a bit flimflam here and there.   

Numerous Scenes From The Ref Starring Denis Leary, Judy Davis, and Kevin Spacey
Now, how can I illustrate this to you, folks? Oh! I know. The first ten minutes were dedicated to Kevin and Judy's characters arguing at a therapy season together, whilst we get to see Denis' character bungle a failed jewel-heist. Within the next thirty minutes, Denis' character takes Judy and Kevin's characters hostage, whilst we are presented with a number of fractured scenes introducing the subsidiary characters that will turn up in this movie later. And then finally, Robert's character shows up, quickly followed by the rest of the cast in a very jovial yet illogical set of circumstances.

Again. I don't want to sound too harsh about this movie. It is a very good movie. But for the life of me, I'd say it could have been a lot better if its construction and its pacing wasn't so slap-dash, and that it was edited in such a fashion that the main thrust of the story centered around the three main characters, and not setting things up to transpire at the end of it.

Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey in The Ref

However, on a more positive note, there were a couple of scenes scattered throughout this flick I thought compensated for this narrative pitfall. Firstly, I did love watching all of those scenes where 'the trio' spilled some back-story to inform the plot. I found those very engaging to watch. And secondly, I really dug the 'final fight' scene where everyone got the opportunity to 'air their views' about their kin. Honestly. I'd say that this segment was very comical, very stress relieving, very fresh, and well worth the price of admission on its own merit.

Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey in The Ref

Denis Leary and Kevin Spacey
Anyway, before I get carried away with myself, here, please check out these filmic-facts.  (1) 'Touchstone Pictures' first release this $11 million dollar production on the 9th of March, 1994, and clawed back $11.5 million dollars at the box office. (2) The two screenwriters who first devised this crime-caper, Richard LaGravenese and Marie Weiss, are both related by marriage, and based some of the scenes in this flick on their families, plus the arguments they've had with their respective partners. (3) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'A Lack of Hostages' in Hungary; 'Forests' in Denmark; and 'This Is Thought of Taking' in France. (4) When Gus says to the woman, 'Lady, your husband ain't dead. He's hiding!', you might like to know that this was a direct quote taken from the Abbott and Costello routine, 'Susquehanna Hat Company'. (5) The majority of this movie was shot throughout the Canadian state of Ontario. This includes such locations as Carlisle, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Oakville, Oshawa, Parkwood Estate, Pickering, Richmond Hill, and Toronto. (6) I kid you not, Gus only ever fires his gun once throughout this entire film, and even then it was at a smoke detector. (7) Ted Demme and Denis Leary were both given the script for this film after Ted directed Denis in his stand-up comedy special for 'Showtime' called, 'No Cure for Cancer'. (8) If you look very closely at the scene where the police are watching the television at the police station, you might notice that the movie they're watching is the Frank Capra 1964 classic, 'It's a Wonderful Life'. (9) In the original ending of this film, the main protagonist, Gus, gets arrested, just to show to Jesse that a life of crime does not pay. Yet, after an early pre-screening, Ted Demme was encouraged to change this ending, which is a decision he now publicly regrets.

Denis Leary in The Ref

Overall 'The Ref' was a pretty so-so film all in all. The actors were great. The segways were tiresome. The comedy was funny. And generally speaking, this is one of those crime capers which is well worth the watch if you're a fan of Denis, Kevin, and Judy.

Say no more.