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Fast Charlie

The other night I was channel surfing and I stopped for a few minutes on TCM’s screening of “Friedkin Uncut.” A picture I’d enjoyed, and reviewed in another venue, and made for pleasant revisiting while I was killing a little time. I saw the section where Quentin Tarantino reflected on the axiom that casting was 90 percent of filmmaking. He said maybe that’s not true. But that maybe 80 percent was true.

I thought of this idea a little time later while watching a new film directed by Philip Noyce, from a script by Richard Wenk, adapting a novel by Victor Gischler. The scenario of “Fast Charlie” treads on some very well-worn turf. To wit, a mob fixer toying with retirement is compelled to deal with some criminal reorganization that is quite likely to put him out of commission in a way he won’t like. The (spoiler alert: correct) presumption when faced with this kind of genre situation is to figure that the mob fixer, in this case indeed the title character Fast Charlie, is resourceful and ruthless enough to outwit and outgun his way through his dilemmas.

In this case, familiarity will not necessarily breed contempt so much as pleasure, and a lot of that has to do with, yup, casting. Pierce Brosnan plays the Biloxi-based mob operative Charlie Swift, and he puts on a Southern accent broader than the Mississippi River at its widest, and he makes you love it. At the movie’s opening, he’s in a junkyard, being ordered to strip, and he relates in voiceover:” I always thought my life would end like this, in some godforsaken place, from a bullet I didn’t see coming. But I never thought I’d care.” What follows tells us why he came to care.

It came thusly: Taking out a guy named Rollo, at the behest of a couple of his bosses, Sol and Stan, who are trying to help out a young up-and-comer named Beggar. On this job Charlie’s working with a youngster himself, nicknamed “Blade” on account of his favored tool, although a turn of events has Charlie re-nicknaming the kid “Donut,” which he doesn’t like. The results of the hit compel Charlie to visit Rollo’s ex, a fetching taxidermist named Marcie; her portrayer is the slyly winning Morena Baccarin.

Charlie’s crew is pretty down-home as criminals go. As a matter of fact, Charlie’s immediate boss, Stan, suffers from Alzheimer’s, and Charlie devotedly looks after him. Stan is played by James Caan in his last film role, and he’s poignant and charming. New trouble begins brewing when the ambitious Beggar requests a meet with Stan, and on being turned down, stages a bloody criminal coup.

I’ve not read the book upon which this movie is based but judging from the dialogue, it’s in the Elmore-Leonard/Carl Hiassen mode of dryly funny mayhem. At one point in the movie, Brosnan’s character gifts Baccarin’s with a dead fox to stuff. She asks its name. “Rocky,” he responds.


“It’s the Smith of racoons,” he counters, making good sense.

And so it goes throughout. We are also treated to Sharon Gless as a spectacularly vulgar mother-in-law, making you forget how ladylike she was on “Cagney and Lacey” and clearly loving it. Of course, without director Noyce’s fluidity, dispatch and taste, on the other hand, this very engaging cast might have been left to flounder instead of cruising to the entirely satisfying conclusion this criminal fable serves up. So kudos all around. This is the farthest thing in the cinematic firmament from a world-changer you can imagine, but as an evening’s entertainment, it’ll more than do.



Glenn Kenny

Glenn Kenny was the chief film critic of Premiere magazine for almost half of its existence. He has written for a host of other publications and resides in Brooklyn. Read his answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here.

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Film Credits

Fast Charlie movie poster

Fast Charlie (2023)

90 minutes


Pierce Brosnan as Charlie 'Fast Charlie' Swift

James Caan as Stan

Morena Baccarin as Marcie

Gbenga Akinnagbe

Toby Huss



Director of Photography

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