Zeyda and the Hitman (2004)
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Simply A Masterpiece
Pretty good movie overall. First half was nothing special but it got better as it went along.
An old-fashioned movie made with new-fashioned finesse.
As of the time I'm posting this, 7 years after the movie's release, there are 3 reviews on IMDb. One is from some guy talking about how his film professor produced this & bought him a beer, another is about the evolution of the Canadian film industry, and the third is from a disgruntled casting agent who is demanding to be added to the credits. And the 4th (me) is some moron complaining about the other 3. A fine bunch are we.This excellent film deserves much better than this. ZEYDA AND THE HIT MAN surprised & entertained the heck out of me, despite what you might be led to believe by its anemic IMDb response. It's one of the most satisfying crime-comedies I've seen since THE MAIDEN HEIST (another obscure gem), and while it's not the screwball comedy farce that the DVD cover may lead you to expect, it packs some great, subtle, situational humour that gives it a classy charm. If you like intelligently-written stories like DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS or DEATH AT A FUNERAL (original version) or maybe even SUICIDE KINGS, then I think you'll really enjoy this movie. All of these stories are pretty minimal in terms of staging, forsaking big sight gags in lieu of more intimate, dialogue- driven entertainment. And in all of these examples, the ending ties everything up in a clever, unexpected way.This movie centers around a couple of ordinary Canuck schmucks who get themselves neck deep in baba ganoush. Oy vey, eh? Yes, if the world had more Jewish-Canadian hit men, it would be a much funnier place. Orbiting around the 2 main characters (expertly played by Tony Aiello & Judd Hirsch) are some equally bizarre personalities: a deadbeat, hypochondriac son-in-law who is obsessed with becoming a game show contestant, his cluelessly devoted wife, a crime boss whose 2 loser sons would much sooner be working at The Gap than being criminal masterminds. You soon realize that this is a film about people who don't belong in their chosen walks of life, and as the story progresses, a powerful statement materializes. If you're paying attention, the final scenes really deliver a powerful punch.There are some additional stylistic touches that make this a treat to watch. Nice use of urban scenery, excellent musical score (think Fiddler on the Roof without lyrics), and a clever 'storyteller' narrative, like in The Princess Bride, which adds foreshadowing, suspense and closure. For what it aims to do, this production pulls it off flawlessly.If you're on this page reading these reviews, chances are you're debating whether or not to watch this movie. Chances are you enjoy digging up obscure films that are off the beaten Hollywood path. If so, I say go for it. You won't be disappointed. By the way, this is a completely family-friendly film, suitable for viewing with your kids or puritanical parents alike. There's no nudity, sex, gratuitous violence, profanity... and there are no peanuts in halvah!! (watch the movie and you'll see what I mean)
I just recently noticed that I'm not listed for any credit on this data base for Zeyda & The Hit-man as I'am listed on the movie credits. I, Tim Cruly "hand picked" did all the extras for this movie. I sat in all meetings with the director and 1st A.D. and took directives in casting directly from them and I did not see Lori Stefaniuk in those meetings. She did not want me to do the movie because she thought it was a threat to her casting business. However,in the end she let use a few faces from her casting files but did not do the contract. This is behind the scenes drama and I just want to set the record straight. 2nd A.D & Extras Casting Director, Tim Cruly Winnipeg, Manitoba
The Canadian film industry has come along way. While this movie wasn't great, it also wasn't bad. There was a time when most Canadian productions were god-awful and looked it. This movie looked polished and professional. But my main praise goes to writing a story that takes place in Canada, yet it doesn't try to hit you over the head with it, nor does it hide it. Now can you imagine what would happen if Canadians took quality stories based in Canada and did films about them, instead of transplanting the story to somewhere USA? Winnipeg native Nia Vardalos are you listening? Kudos also to a well respected group of American actors who starred in a Canadian movie. It's nice to see it can work both ways.
The producer of this film is also my Film Production professor at the University of Western Ontario (UWO). He showed our class a nearly final cut of Zeyda and the Hit-man intended for television here in Canada. The film itself wasn't too bad, but for the television edit, absolutely awful (and unnecessary) bookends were added. The bookends (used to transistion to and from commercials) are a typical narrative tool wherein Danny Aiello's character is lecturing some "troubled youths" as to why a life of crime is a not-too-wise idea. Trouble is that these kids are awful actors, and their reactions to The Hit-man's story are absolute crap (wait for that applause...). Yes, the producer was my professor and a damn nice guy (bought the class beer after the last class), but his films are far from perfect.