At the end of The Whole Nine Yards, professional hit man Jimmy “The Tulip” Tudeski had double-crossed a Hungarian mob family, whacked rival Yanni Gogolak and faked his own death in an attempt to return to a life of seclusion. He was assisted in the ruse by his new neighbor, Oz, the beleaguered dentist who got dragged into a cloak-and-dagger world foreign to him. Poor Oz. His dental assistant, Jill, turned out to be a fledgling contract killer hired by Oz’s wife to kill him, but couldn’t bring herself to knock off a guy she respected. Then Jill met her hero, Jimmy the Tulip, and was totally starstruck. That worked out well for Oz since he had fallen hard for Jimmy’s wife, the lovely Cynthia, who happened to be on Jimmy’s hit list. To make a long, complicated story short, the four of them basically agreed to shuffle partners and split $10 million in ill-gotten gain.
The stakes in the sequel are even higher. Upon his release from prison, elderly crime boss Lazlo Gogolak seeks revenge for the murder of his favorite son, Yanni. He kidnaps Oz’s new wife, Cynthia, confident that Oz will turn to Jimmy for help, thus leading Lazlo to the famed hit man’s secret hideaway. That’s exactly what happens, though Jimmy—still a sociopath who has turned into a crazed Suzy Homemaker—isn’t thrilled to see his old pal. He’s trying to move on and support his wife, Jill, in her new career as a hit woman. It doesn’t take long for all of them to see action. With twists, turns and timely betrayals equal to those in the first film, the plot motors along as these “friends” try to rescue Cynthia and steal the $280 million hidden in Lazlo’s vault.
Jimmy says to Oz, “I don’t want you or Cynthia or anyone else paying for the sins of my past anymore.” He sincerely regrets the pain and danger his reputation has caused those close to him. During a falling out with Jill, he learns how important trust is in a marriage when she asks, “How am I supposed to have a kid with somebody I don’t trust?” Jimmy admits that he still has some feelings for his ex-wife, lending support to the (correct) notion that divorce rarely involves a clean emotional break. He lectures a young man on showing courtesy to waitresses. In the end, Jimmy resists the temptation to kill Lazlo. Oz goes all out to rescue Cynthia from danger.
Jimmy fancies himself religious, but possesses a faith rooted more in emotion and superstition than orthodoxy. He claims to be a devout Catholic, yet prays a Hebrew blessing at mealtime. He misquotes Scripture saying, “Do unto others before you’re turned into a pillar of salt … Moses said that. Read the Bible, Oz!” He wears a crucifix as a good luck charm, and gets violent when Jill tries to take it from him (“This cross represents my Lord and Savior … If I throw it away, I’ll go straight to hell”). Such spiritual confusion is manifested in other comments he makes while drunk. For example, he wonders if his life of crime has turned God against him (“Maybe this erectile dysfunction is God’s way of punishing me”).
Sexual encounters are recalled and overheard. To make Jimmy jealous, Jill strips down to her underwear and puts Oz’s hand on her bare breast so that they’re caught in a compromising position. It actually turns Jimmy on, and he’s heard having raucous intercourse with his wife soon after. Cynthia pretends to be interested in a thug. There are comments about impotence and sterility. The morning after their drinking binge, Oz and Jimmy wake up in the same motel room, leading to suspicions and innuendo about a possible homosexual encounter. Guns and murder are an aphrodisiac to Jill. At one point, to lift his wife’s spirits, Jimmy suggests that he take Jill on a romantic lark centered on killing a stranger.
Even though Jimmy talks about his career as a hit man with some remorse, he isn’t truly repentant. He crafts a crude mobile for his child’s nursery using papier-mâché effigies of men he has murdered. Jimmy is a combustible personality quick to grab Oz or turn a gun on his own wife. He smashes a rude restaurant patron’s head against the table until he knocks the man out. Lazlo shoots several people at pointblank range, including a woman, and blows up a car. A man gets shot in the foot. Another is shown with a bullet wound in his head. Stray bullets accidentally kill a man trapped in a car trunk. An automobile blows up, annihilating a pair of thugs. Lazlo’s gang riddles Jimmy’s house with bullets. Other scenes feature exchanges of gunfire as well. Jimmy warns a thug, “I will blow your ribs across the parking lot.”
The more disturbing violence occurs when Jimmy, Oz and Jill abuse and threaten each other. Jimmy tells Oz, “I will back a car over your head 75 times.” He tells his wife, “I will stick a knife in your face.” And he wishes of his father, “I’d like to take an ice pick and stick it right in his eyeball!” Yes, The Tulip has issues. Jill isn’t much better when she puts a knife to Oz’s throat. Jimmy also chokes him several times and hits him in the face with a tuna sandwich. (Not exactly the kind of comradery Matthew Perry is used to on Friends.)
Elsewhere, Oz runs over and kills a chicken with his car. Young boys are shown beating each other up. Thugs punch Oz. Lazlo’s grown son strikes Cynthia. Lazlo slaps his son every time he tries to correct him. Physical comedy and pratfalls include Oz running into doors and walls, stumbling over chairs and banging his head against a wall. Jill tells Jimmy about a botched hit, which we see replayed in detail. Her attempt to shoot a man to death takes a detour when the guy slips on spilled spaghetti sauce, flies through a window and plummets to his death. Jimmy advises her, “You must stay focused when you’re killing a person.”
More than 50 profanities or obscenities, including two f-words, a dozen s-words and misuses of God’s name ranging from the exclamatory “my god” to “g–d—.” A cookie-toting girl scout (played by Willis’ daughter, Tallulah Belle) calls Oz a “jag-off.”
People consume wine at dinner. Characters also drink irresponsibly and to excess. Lazlo scolds his henchmen who down alcohol prior to driving. An angry Jimmy marches off to a bar to get drunk with Oz (the two have beers and over a dozen shots). Later Jimmy drinks in his motel room. Men are chloroformed. A guy overdoses on nitrous oxide, but is revived.
A drunk Oz belches quite a bit, wondering if he’ll vomit. Another gag involves a flatulent old lady. As for close bonds, Jimmy asserts, “Friendship is overrated. Besides, I’ve got enough friends. I’m looking to lose a few.” Then there’s the overriding issue of rooting for corrupt people because the script tells us a) they’re quirky and not to be taken seriously, and b) they’re not as unequivocally evil as the “bad guys.”
Forget the violence, vicious threats, language, alcohol use and sexual content for a minute. Every character in this film needs some form of therapy. And fast. Their psychoses are supposed to be funny, and sometimes they are. But if you stop long enough to think about who you’re being asked to root for, it’s pitiful. Only Oz has any moral conscience at all and it’s clearly being co-opted by the rest of these greedy swindlers. In the tradition of movies like The Sting and Ocean’s Eleven, The Whole Ten Yards tells us to pledge allegiance (for about 90 minutes) to the glamorized lesser of evils.
In the closing scene, we learn that Jimmy and Jill are soon to be parents. We’re supposed to feel happy for them. But this amoral couple is so messed up that I imagined their offspring impacting society much like the demon spawn that Henstridge spat out in Species. These are unhealthy people, every bit as much so as the Hungarian mafiosi they’ve just eradicated. I realize it’s just dark humor and these people aren’t real, but to have Jill continually aroused by firearms and the prospect of killing people (she even calls Oz a “stud” for being gun-savvy) has a sick John Hinckley Jr. feel to it. Factor in how often Jimmy threatens those closest to him with unspeakable violence and I have to wonder how exciting a pregnancy can really be for people who place so little value on human life?
Finally, don’t let the rating fool you. This sequel to the R-rated Whole Nine Yards may have managed a PG-13, but the only noticeable difference is that it lacks the female breast nudity of the first film. Those shots of a bare-chested Peet have been replaced by Bruce Willis’ naked backside and glimpses of pubic hair which, according to the unwritten code of the Motion Picture Association of America, must be okay for minors—along with the wild, orgasmic cries overheard as Jill and Jimmy have sex. Speaking of MPAA “standards,” aren’t two f-words supposed to push a film into R territory? Apparently not. Let’s hope we’ve seen the whole of this franchise.