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"Fools" golden

Chain of Fools (Comedy, color, no rating, 1:36)

By Gunnar Rehlin

STOCKHOLM (Variety) - A black comedy about the search for three stolen coins, ``Chain of Fools'' is uneven but shows definite signs of promise.

Helped by an ace American cast, the L.A.-based Swedish collective Traktor has come up with a solid movie that's both amusing and entertaining. Story is told in a way that makes ample use of its creators' experience in award-winning commercials (for Volvo, Levi's and Sony). Pic, which world premiered in Sweden on March 3 and is set for Stateside release later this year through Warners, looks likely to reap a satisfying box office haul, with the presence of Salma Hayek a definite draw.

Kresk (Steve Zahn) is a hairdresser who's down on his luck. His wife, Karen (Lara Flynn Boyle), is divorcing him, adding insult to injury by going on a vacation with their marriage counselor.

Kresk's first customer of the day turns out to be a gangster, Avnet (Jeff Goldblum), who's in possession of three ancient coins, stolen in a robbery in which two guards were killed. When Kresk accidentally overhears his phone conversation, Avnet attacks him, and, in the confused struggle that ensues, Kresk accidentally stabs Avnet in the neck with a pair of scissors, killing him.

Panic-stricken, Kresk seeks the help of a friend, Andy (David Cross), the sadistic leader of a Boy Scout troop. The two decide to dump Avnet's body in Karen's empty apartment -- and then hunt down the valuable coins.

They find the coins in Avnet's apartment, and as they are leaving they narrowly miss the appearance of an underage hit man, Mikey (Elijah Wood).

Flashbacks limn the events -- how the wealthy Bollingsworth (Tom Wilkinson) masterminded the coin robbery that went wrong when Avnet, against orders, killed the guards and fled with the booty.

Bollingsworth hired Mikey to kill Avnet, but the hit man now reports that the coins seem to be in the possession of Kresk.

Enter investigating cop Kolko (Hayek), a former Playmate of the Month who's the perpetual butt of her colleagues' jokes. She and Kresk quickly warm to each other.

The plot becomes really complicated when Bollingsworth tries to commit suicide and is saved by Kresk.

Script hardly carves out much original ground and is more amusing than wildly funny. More importantly, pic manages to keep a balance between humor and violence, with the latter never gory.

Flashbacks are efficiently used, for both clarification and mystification, and help to make the film surprisingly unpredictable.

Zahn turns in a humorous portrait of a loser who finally seems to have found both fortune and love, and Cross is very funny as the Boy Scout leader from hell. Boyle is excellent as a total bitch, and Hayek is as sexy as ever. Though pic was shot in Vancouver, the setting is any big North American town.

Kresk ........... Steve Zahn

Kolko ........... Salma Hayek

Avnet ........... Jeff Goldblum

Karen ........... Lara Flynn Boyle

Bollingsworth ... Tom Wilkinson

Andy ............ David Cross

Mikey ........... Elijah Wood

Kerner .......... David Hyde Pierce

Miss Coco ....... Orlando Jones

Paulie .......... Kevin Corrigan

Hit man ......... Michael Rapaport

A Warner Brothers release (in Sweden) of a Bel-Air Entertainment presentation of a City Block Films/Weaver/Lord production. (International sales: Warner Bros., Los Angeles.) Produced by Steven Reuther, Matthew Weaver, Happy Walters. Executive producers, Reuther, Charles X. Block, Traktor.

Directed by Traktor. Screenplay, Bix Skahill. Camera (color), Fred Elmes; editor, Harvey Rosenstock; music, David A. Hughes, John Murphy; art director, Gary Frutkoff; costume designer, Mary Claire Hannan; sound, (Dolby/DTS stereo), Tim Walston. Reviewed at Park, Stockholm, March 4, 2001.

Reuters/Variety REUTERS