As far as “Pulp Fiction” pairings go, the actors Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson in the satirical crime comedy “The Kill Room” generate more pleasure than seeing Bruce Willis and John Travolta in last year’s hackneyed action thriller “Paradise City.”
This is because “The Kill Room,” directed by Nicol Paone from a script by Jonathan Jacobson, gives them a good deal of scenery to chew on together, at least at the beginning.
Thurman, a producer on the film, plays Patrice, a gallerist in Manhattan who is refusing to crumble as she faces a set of financial shortfalls. Jackson plays Gordon, a bialy craftsman known to his associates as “Black Dreidel,” whose Jersey City bakery is a front for organized crime.
Gordon looks after an assassin, Reggie (Joe Manganiello), whose hits are making them enough cash to potentially alert the authorities. As a cover, he instructs Reggie to start painting and enlists Patrice in a money-laundering scheme in which each canvas represents a murder, and is sold for a respectable amount of money via a respectable check.
But the script’s sendup of the gallery world is stale, as is its depiction of organized crime, which has a group of vulgar Russian guys at the top. The premise rests upon a tired and philistine notion about modern art, here iterated by an indignant criminal’s protest, “My five-year-old makes better paintings than that with his fingers.”
And while the supporting cast is replete with performers we like to see — Debi Mazar, Larry Pine, and Thurman’s daughter, Maya Hawke, as a feminist artist — the script, in the end, does little to support them.
The Kill Room
Rated R for violence, language. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes. In theaters.