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Small time crooks

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

They took a bite out of crime.

Ray Winkler (Woody Allen) is an ex-con with big dreams and an inability to hold down dishwashing jobs. His wife, Frenchy (Tracey Ullman), is a sardonic manicurist who reins Ray in, attempting to keep him grounded in reality. So when Ray comes to Frenchy with a half-baked plan to rob a bank, she's dead set against it: no way is she giving up their life savings so he can work with three dim-witted guys in a harebrained scheme. Yet Ray, with his neurotic charm, wins her over and even convinces her to run the front for their operation: a biscuit bakery. Soon enough, their get-rich-quick scheme to rob a bank leaves them rolling in dough - but not the kind they had in mind.

Theatrical propaganda posters

Small time crooks image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film comedy crime nouveau riche bakery bank robbery

Persons of interest

  • Woody Allen .... Ray
  • Tracey Ullman .... Frenchy
  • Michael Rapaport .... Denny
  • Tony Darrow .... Tommy
  • Jon Lovitz .... Benny
  • Elaine May .... May
  • Steve Kroft .... Himself
  • Brian McConnachie .... Paul Milton
  • Kristine Nielsen .... Emily Bailey
  • Larry Pine .... Charles Bailey
  • Hugh Grant .... David
  • Julie Lund .... Linda Rhinelander
  • Woody Allen .... Screenwriter
  • Woody Allen .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Big time losers.

The film about a selection of life's genetic throwbacks who create the master plan for a daring and imbecillic heist is now an official genre, up there with romantic comedy, musical, action, drama and sci-fi. Prophesied by Quentin Tarantino in Pulp fiction and fulfilled by guy Ritchie in Lock, stock and two smoking barrels, loser criminality has crossed over to art-house with this rendition by Woody.

The next question is, how on earth could anyone fall in love with a guy as ugly and weedy as Woody?

Leaving the gratuitous pædophile references aside I am confronted with a plethora of that particularly New York style of white trash. There's not enough room for a trailer park so they live in apartments the size of motor homes, stacked one on top of the other. Frenchy's interior design talents create an entire new artistic movement which I dub "nouveau trash" and the price of admission is worth it for the educational experience alone.

As a comedy, Small time crooks is pretty rude (ie in your face) but that just makes it all the more piquant. Hugh's rich bitch and Michael's gormless wiseguy are outstanding pieces of cinematic brevity. They do more with their 15 minutes than most actors do with an entire career. Michael has been getting a few tasty little roles in some major films recently and he always adds something zesty to the whole mélange (see Men of honour, Lucky numbers, The 6th day). The Forrest Gump award for best upstaging, however, goes to Elaine for the stupidest person in film, cousin May. The character's IQ must be approximately the same as her shoe size, and that's in inches, not centimetres.

Having read this far, you now need to be warned that Small time crooks is something of an intellectual film, with a lot of subtext drifting around and a desiccated sense of humour. (Why are TV shows funnier with a live studio audience laugh track when it would seem fake in a movie? That's one for all you budding post-graduates out there in internetland.) If you like this sort of film, you'll like this film.

Security censorship classification


Surveillance time

95 minutes (1:35 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 25 January 2001

Cinema surveillance images

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