The Whole Ten Yards

The whole ten yardsSequel to 2000’s “The Whole Nine Yards” squeezes one yard too many out of the concept of cheerful hired killers double-crossing each other. Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Kevin Pollack and Natasha Henstridge seem to be having fun. But what, exactly, are they doing? Directed by Howard Deutch. 1:37 (violence, racy humor, vulgarisms). At area theaters.

“The Whole Nine Yards” made somewhere between $50 to $60 million when it was released four years ago. Not the kind of take that sends pulse rates into the red zone, but large enough to catch many movie mavens by surprise.

Still, you wouldn’t have thought that a pokey comedy-thriller about jovial freelance assassins double- and triple-crossing each other all over Montreal could have box office muscle powerful enough to warrant a sequel.

The whole ten yardsAnd while the characters in “Nine Yards” had the kind of laid-back charm that made you want to hang out with them a little longer, the movie still didn’t leave you feeling all that curious about what happens to them next.

Nevertheless, like it or not, we’re being pushed to go that “extra yard.” And the big surprise — the only gratifying surprise — of “The Whole Ten Yards” is that we’re glad to see almost everyone back.

Even Kevin Pollack, who played ill-fated mob boss Yanni Gogolak in the previous installment, returns with a white wig, glitzy threads, thick makeup and thicker accent as Yanni’s father Laszlo, just out of prison and, like his late son, seeking vengeance on ace hit man Jimmy “The Tulip” Tudeski (Bruce Willis), who’s hiding out in Mexico with his bride and professional colleague Jill St. Clair (Amanda Peet).

Laszlo aims to get at Jimmy through Oz Oseransky (Matthew Perry), a high-strung dentist whose profitable Los Angeles practice does nothing to ease his anxiety that someone, somewhere is out to kill him and his wife Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge), who used to be married to Jimmy and is also in Laszlo’s gunsights.

The whole ten yardsA chase, needless to say, ensues with a lot of shooting, stumbling, pratfalling, bickering and border crossing. What it all means, what’s at stake, what it all adds up to is anyone’s guess, including, alas, your own. Director Howard Deutch moves things along about as frantically and clumsily as Oz negotiates a cluttered hallway.

Even the presumptive good guys keep needling and hazing each other for no good reason except to give the characters room to act out their idiosyncrasies. And after a while, even the good will they’ve carried from the previous installment wears away to the point where you miss Michael Clarke Duncan.

Still, Frank Collison, as Laszlo’s dimwitted younger son Strabo, is good for some easy laughs. And while Peet is pressed too hard by the sloppy script to match the impact of her original breakout performance, it’s good to see her once again showing off the sassy, bratty persona that’s been overly checked in such recent efforts as “Something’s Gotta Give.”

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