Dir: Myles Connell. US. 1999. 89 mins.

Prod co: Prosperity Pictures. Int'l sales: Overseas Filmgroup/First Look Pictures. Prods: John Lyons, Tim Perell. Co-prods: Martin Fink, Richard E Johnson. Exec prods: Peter Saraf, Jonathan Demme, Edward Saxon. Scr: Myles Connell. DoP: Teodoro Maniaci. Prod des: Debbie DeVilla. Ed: Andy Keir. Mus: Kurt Hoffman. Main cast: Christopher Walken, Peter McDonald, Cyndi Lauper, Donal Logue.

A weary, downbeat portrait of a man swimming against a tide of misfortune, The Opportunists feels like the kind of film we've already seen once too often. A characteristically composed and convincing central performance from Christopher Walken can't counteract the project's fatal sense of familiarity and theatrical possibilities look suitably bleak.

There's a hint of Raymond Carver in writer-director Myles Connell's melancholy account of a convicted robber who has worked diligently to make amends and provide for his family. Too proud to accept money from girlfriend Sally (Cyndi Lauper), Walken's Victor Kelly is running out of options as his garage hits financial troubles and his creditors demand their pound of flesh. The sudden arrival of an Irish cousin is the least of his worries until the youngster confesses that he has been drawn to America by Kelly's criminal reputation. Immersing himself in the neighbourhood, the cousin is a key figure in the conspiracy that lures Kelly back to the wrong side of the law.

As the events unfold, it very quickly becomes apparent where the film is headed and it isn't anywhere too happy. Heavy with irony, Connell has Kelly trapped at the scene of the crime and arrested on the grand opening night of Sally's refurbished bar. We assume the worst. An unexpected final twist, offering the possibility of another second chance is the one surprise in a plodding endeavour that would have benefited from a good few more.