Jon Abrahams’s comic thriller, “Clover,” strains for the mob intrigue of Martin Scorsese and the rapturous, bloody stylization of Quentin Tarantino. It’s chock-full of gore and expletive-laden banter, but lacks the key ingredients to make it worthy of its influences: original ideas and a strong script.
Mickey (played by Abrahams) and Jackie Callaghan (Mark Webber) owe a local mobster, Tony (Chazz Palminteri, hamming it up), a debt that they cannot repay. So, Tony offers them a deal: They can work it off by helping his son, Joey, collect from another defaulting debtor. The situation goes (expectedly) south when Joey is shot dead by the debtor’s 13-year-old daughter, Clover (Nicole Elizabeth Berger), and the brothers flee with the girl, seeking refuge with a motley assortment of friends as they’re chased by Tony’s goons.
Every beat in “Clover,” written by Michael Testone, is overly familiar and so is every character. The Callaghans are archetypal bumblers who squabble even when staring down the barrel of a gun. Tony is a cartoonish mob villain with a knack for gruesome murder. There’s also a coldhearted ex-girlfriend; a dirty back-stabbing cop; and a rival mob boss (Ron Perlman) who delivers a speech about the importance of the “pecking order” while a nearby TV plays images of wolves hunting deer. As more short-lived, thinly drawn characters accumulate, the movie contorts in unconvincing ways from one verbose, bullet-ridden set piece to the next.
Why this film is named after Clover — or why the character even features in the story — is a mystery: She’s marginal to the plot and surfaces only occasionally to gratingly convey her precocious sass and savvy. A final twist involving a pair of female assassins and a tacked-on rape-revenge back story tries to add some context to Clover’s presence. But it’s a lazy grab at topical feminist cred and feels, as do many aspects of “Clover,“ like a half-realized imitation of better movies.