About The Production
Koppelman and David Levien, best friends since they were fourteen, had long
wanted to do a film based on the various "sons of wiseguys" they had
observed growing up. After the release of the acclaimed hit, Rounders,
for which they wrote the original screenplay, they decided to approach the idea.
The result was Knockaround Guys, a film about family, friends and,
"The characters in
this film have enjoyed privileged childhoods with their father's family business
providing for their every want and need," explains David Levien. "Now
in their early twenties, they want to make their own way in the world. But
they're finding out it's not so easy to escape the shadow of their
Adds Brian Koppelman:
"Their infamous last names are a handicap. When they go in for a job
interview people are frightened of them. They don't want to hire them. The mob
is in a state of dissolution at this point in this country and it leaves very
few options for these young guys. The broader idea is that it applies to young
people in general and what choice they're going to make with their lives."
Longtime fans of such
classic films as The Godfather and GoodFellas, the directors
couldn't figure out a fresh way to make a gangster film until they decided to
take the guys out of their element. What resulted was a sort of fish out of
water story where the boys had to take responsibility for their lives by
relating to the rules of the old west.
Once the filmmakers got
these New Yorkers into a small town in Montana where no one knew their names, a
whole array of story possibilities opened up and the script quickly began to
take shape. The final product is, for the filmmakers, a combination of some of
their favorite genres.
"In a weird way,
this is as much a western as it is a gangster film," Koppelman admits.
"I mean, these guys end up in the American West. And there's a long tall
sheriff in this small town in Montana with whom they wind up in a showdown. So,
it's really a cross-pollenization of genres."
In many ways, the rules
of criminal life could be considered the modern-day equivalent of the antiquated
laws of the old West. Both center on loners who don't fit into contemporary
society and make their own rules of how they're going to live life. Fights are
usually over a bag of money in a milieu where everyone's loyalties and honor are
constantly being questioned. And almost all of the characters in question
eventually live, and die, by the rules of the gun.
It was exactly this
cleverness of merging genres that attracted producer Lawrence Bender, known for
his work on such "non-mainstream, mainstream" hits as Pulp Fiction,
Good Will Hunting and Reservoir Dogs.
"I liked their
different take on the genre," Bender says. "The kids in the film are
guys not quite tough enough to make it as the real thing. But their last names
plague them so they can't get jobs in the real world. So they kind of get stuck
in the middle."
Koppelman and Levien
first confronted the term "knockaround guys" after meeting various
low-level denizens of the crime world while researching Rounders. During
that time, they were involved from<
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