WHY ME? 1990. Christopher Lambert, Kim Greist, Christopher Lloyd, J.T.Walsh, Michael J. Pollard, Lawrence Tierney. Based on the novel by Donald E. Westlake, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Director: Gene Quintano.

WHY ME Westlake

   Some changes were made. The locale was changed from New York City to Los Angeles (budgetary, I’m sure) . The name of famed hapless burglar John Dortmunder was changed, too. To Gus Cardinale. You figure that one out. (I don’t think the book had a question mark, either.)

   Other than that, some of the remaining story is still the same. Dortmunder/Cardinale robs a jewelry store and manages to get away with the fabulous Byzantine Fire, a ruby that has just been hijacked by Armenian nationalists while on its way back to Turkey.

WHY ME Westlake

   And on his trail (and his friend Bruno and Bruno’s daughter, who is also Gus’s girl friend) are the CIA, the Turkish government, the Armenians, and the entire L.A. underworld, tired of their endless hassle by the L.A.P.D.

   The book was better. By the movie’s end, it was very difficult to keep track of who was who, what they were doing and why they were doing it. Mostly it’s played for laughs, and mostly it comes off silly and not nearly as funny as the book.

   Also note the presence of Lawrence Tierney in the credits. If it weren’t for the closing cast notes, I never would have recognized him. He’s gained sane weight and lost some hair. He probably doesn’t make too many movies any more, but he looks like he’s still a pretty tough guy.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File 33, Sept 1991 (slightly revised).

WHY ME Westlake

[UPDATE] 01-03-09. First of all, I was correct in saying that while the title of the movie has a question mark at the end, there is no such device in the title of the book. See the cover image to the right. I will also so inform Al Hubin.

   At this much later date, I can’t say that I remember much about the movie I reviewed over 17 years ago, but right now my opinion is that any movie with Christopher Lloyd in it as a star is going to be sillier than the actual script, however it reads.

   I’ve not found very much in the way of images taken from the film itself, only the two posters above, but there is a trailer for it that I’ve found online.

   Follow the link, and I think you might agree with me as to silly the movie might be.