Just out of prison, Billy Brown recruits a tap dance student Layla to pose as his wife in an attempt to impress his parents.
Only an actor in his first feature as a writer-director-star would insert a gratuitous line of dialogue in an early scene to make sure the audience knows he has a really big penis. As this shows, Gallo, a strong-jawed supporting hood in The Funeral and Palookaville, certainly isn't short of confidence (or ego). The major problem of following this generally enjoyable little picture is believing Gallo's script when it has the heroine, abducted and abused by the Gallo character, fall genuinely and sincerely in love with him in the space of a few miserable hours.
Billy Brown (Gallo), just out of prison, returns to his grim hometown of Buffalo, New York, and impulsively grabs Layla (Ricci), a tap dance student, because he has told his parents he is away on government work and needs someone to pretend to be the wife he claims to have married. Surprisingly, Layla goes along with the scheme and works hard to impress Billy's weird parents, football-obsessed mom (Anjelica Huston) and brutal crooner dad (Ben Gazzara). Her understanding of the comical grimness of Billy's life increases as they revisit scenes from his pre-prison life, including a trip to the bowling alley where he was hailed as a champion and an encounter with the former prom queen (Rosanna Arquette) he fantasised was his girlfriend.
Gallo is clearly well up on his US indies and borrows freely from Pulp Fiction and The Big Lebowski, but his East Coast post-industrial setting allows for a distinctive and genuine grimness. Ricci, with heavy eye make-up and bowling ball breasts, passes for 28 (wasn't she 14 last year?) and struggles to make the vacuum of her character credible.
Vincent Gallo's ego gets the better of his storytelling in his acting-directing-writing debut, but there are flashes of genuis that make it worth watching.