Jerry and Tom

Director: Saul Rubinek
Screenwriters: Rick Cleveland

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


Like its cartoon namesake, Jerry and Tom plays with the aesthetics of violence. This very impressive feature debut by Saul Rubinek is so fresh and appealing, sparkling with irony and wit, that one can’t help but laugh. Indeed this black comedy is loaded with farce, calculated zaniness, and deadpan wisecracks that transform it from simple genre into one of the most fun yet substantive features we’ve seen this year.
For Tom (Joe Mantegna) and his young associate Jerry (Sam Rockwell), being used car salesmen is only part time. They are actually mob hit men. When Tom teaches Jerry the ways of the profession: “First time is happenstance. You just happened to be there. Second time is coincidence. Third time is your choice . . .”as well as personal lessons—“Never point a muzzle at a loved one”—we realize that this isn’t your normal gangster flick. For old pro Vic (Charles Durning), whose past can be hinted at with two words, “grassy knoll,” teaching young hit men the professional code is as important as technique. But life isn’t predictable, and Tom worries when Jerry begins to find it a little too easy to practice his craft.

Marvelously restrained and with a superlative script, Jerry and Tom is bursting with a spirit of exuberance and self-conscious parody. With great cameos (William Macy, Ted Danson, and Peter Riegert) and terrific lines (“Four words, ‘Hunka, hunka, burning love . . .’”), this is a memorable first feature from a filmmaker with a
great future.

Saul Rubinek, Director
Saul Rubinek was a child actor in Canada and later a cofounder, actor, and director of Theater Le Hibou, Theatre Passe-Muraille, and the Toronto Free Theater. He began his U.S. career at New York’s Public Theatre. Acting appearances in films include True Romance, Unforgiven, Ticket to Heaven, Against All Odds, and The Bonfie of the Vanities. Rubinek authored the book So Many Miracles, which he turned into an award-winning documentary for CBC and PBS. Jerry and Tom marks Rubinek’s debut as a feature film director.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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