A Movie A Day #247: Play Nice (1992, directed by Terri Treas)

Homicide Detective Jake “Mouth” Penucci (Ed O’Ross) is the most hated man on the police force.  His partners hate him.  His ex-wife hates him.  His daughter will hate him once she is old enough.  Penucci is obnoxious, tells terrible jokes, and is haunted by his abusive childhood.  The only person that does not hate Penucci is Jill (Robey), who works in the records office.  Jill and Penucci are soon an item but it turns out that Jill has some kinky tastes, which make even Penucci nervous.  She wants him to beat her during sex and sometimes ask him to pretend that she’s a little girl.  At the same time that Penucci is trying to figure out how to have a normal relationship with Jill, he has been assigned to catch Rapunzel, a female serial killer who only targets men who have been accused of sexually abusing their daughters.  Could it all be connected?

Play Nice is a standard 1990s Skinemax neo-noir, distinguished by a few surreal dream sequences and performances that are better than what’s typically found in films like this.  The mystery would be interesting except that there is only one possible suspect so it is not at all surprising when that suspect is eventually revealed to be Rapunzel.  For many Skinemax watchers, the film’s main appeal was probably the beautiful Robey appearing in several nude scenes but Play Nice is also memorable for giving character actor Ed O’Ross a rare starring role.  O’Ross has spent almost his entire movie career playing corrupt cops and psychotic gangster but he does a pretty good job as Penucci, even if Penucci is not a typical hero.  Every good character actor should get at least one chance to play a lead and O’Ross makes the most of it in Play Nice.

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