Relaxed Woody

Light, likable Small Time Crooks brings out Allen's best

Woody Allen, playing safecracker and wisecracker Ray Winkler, hits a quiet, lighter note in Small Time Crooks, which he directs.
John Clifford
Woody Allen, playing safecracker and wisecracker Ray Winkler, hits a quiet, lighter note in Small Time Crooks, which he directs.

It is this generosity, together with its Damon Runyon elements and its debunking of the rich, that makes Small Time Crooks feel like an homage to the '30s. In many ways, this could be a Preston Sturges script. Sadly, the central way in which it doesn't resemble Sturges is in the density and quality of the gags. The zingers are a bit too sparse and occasionally seem forced. Some of Frenchy's putdowns of Ray feel much too "written" and unnatural. Small Time Crooks is lovable and touching and a lot of fun; you just have to wish it were a little faster and funnier.

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