Safe Men

Director: John Hamburg
Screenwriters: John Hamburg

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


John Hamburg returns to Sundance (his short film Tick played in the 1996 Festival) with another outstanding accomplishment utilizing his own unique label-defying humor that lies somewhere between deadpan and slapstick. He pairs fellow Festival alum Sam Rockwell (Box of Moonlight) and Steve Zahn (subUrbia) to create a comedy duo as reminiscent of the Smothers Brothers as of Wayne and Garth. They play off each other’s sensibilities immaculately, managing to form a relationship that transcends buddyhood and provides the comic consciousness for the entire film.

In a classic case of mistaken identity, Sam and Eddie, two tremendously untalented singers, are believed to be the best safecrackers in Providence, Rhode Island. This confusion thrusts them into the not-so-nefarious world of the town’s Jewish Mafia, headed by Big Fat Bernie Gayle (Michael Lerner) and his “intern” Veal Chop (Paul Giamatti). Sam begins to fall for the rival crime boss’s daughter Hannah (Christina Kirk), while Eddie engages in a process of self-discovery. Together the two stumble through their new lives of botched crime toward fulfillment of their singing dreams at the much anticipated bar mitzvah of Bernie’s son, Little Big Fat Bernie Gayle, Jr.

Replete with the hip wordplay and pop-culture references of so many current independents, Safe Men contains an intelligent innocence that freshens and refines these familiar devices. Hamburg playfully deconstructs the crime-film genre to express a truly original comedic voice, unlocking laughter with the precision of a true safecracker.

John Hamburg, Director
Born in New York City in 1970, John Hamburg made several short films throughout high school and college at Brown University. While at NYU’s Graduate Film Division, he made the short film Tick, which played at many festivals, including the 1996 Sundance Film Festival. Safe Men is his first feature film.

— Trevor Groth

Screening Details

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