Jerry and his two pals, Russ and Syd, are just looking for some easy money to help them break out of their nowhere lives in their nowhere town...
Getting your characters mixed up in a robbery that goes awry would seem pretty much de rigeur for most cult US crime stories. But despite opening with that familiar scenario, Palookaville serves up a new spin on the theme, delivering a refreshing and hilarious alternative to the cool-guys-with-guns flick.
Looking for a way to elevate their small-town New Jersey lifestyle from dead-end rut to purposeful existence, Sid (Forsythe), Russ (Gallo) and Jerry (Trese) opt for a life of crime to improve their social standing. However, the initial effort to rob a jewellery store - they take a wrong turn and end up in the adjoining bakery instead - pretty much sets the standard for all future attempts.
Although each is desperate - Sid is facing an eviction notice, Russ wants to move out of the home he still shares with his mother, and Jerry needs to support his wife and child - none really have the inclination or the heart to do anything particularly bad. They may dream of holding up a cash-filled security van but when the driver of one they're following collapses at the wheel, getting him to hospital and returning the vehicle safely become their top priorities.
Extracting loveable performances from its leads, the film (unusually for this genre) also draws upon the strength of women in this set-up (especially Frances McDormand in a pivotal cameo), who provide the wise words and backbone the trio obviously rely on.
By replacing brutal language and escalating violence with a wonderfully written and deftly performed script, debut director Taylor comes up with the goods by the bucketload, turning the predictable into the surprising.