The film's title comes from a Warren Zevon song of the same name, recorded on his 1991 album Mr. Bad Example, which he allowed under the condition that the song be played during the end credits. The lead character's name, "Jimmy the Saint," comes from the Bruce Springsteen song "Lost in the Flood" from the album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. It is referred to by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum as one of several of Pulp Fiction's clones. The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.
Jimmy "The Saint" Tosnia (Andy García) is a dapper ex-gangster living in Denver. Once known as "the bitch's bastard" in Denver's crime scene, Jimmy has left the criminal world, attempting to "go straight" with his business "Afterlife Advice", where dying people videotape messages for loved ones. Jimmy's business isn't doing well and he is in debt to a local loan shark known as "New Orleans Sal." What Jimmy doesn't know is that his former boss, the local crime lord known as "The Man With the Plan" (Christopher Walken) has bought up his debt in order to command a favor from him.
In exchange for forgiving Jimmy's debt, The Man With The Plan wants Jimmy to lead a crew on one last job. The Man With The Plan was rendered a quadriplegic some years ago in the wake of a failed attempt on his life. Left bitter and immobilized, The Man With The Plan is interested in helping his son, Bernard, a burgeoning pedophile who is still in love with an ex-girlfriend. The Man With The Plan believes that Bernard will be able to resume a relationship with this woman once her new boyfriend is out of the picture, and wants Jimmy to lead a crew in scaring off the man. They are to beat him up so that he dumps Bernard's ex. Initially reluctant, Jimmy takes the job when The Man With The Plan bribes and threatens him.
Jimmy puts together a team made up of several old acquaintances from his criminal days, many of whom have also tried to leave the criminal life, with generally less than satisfying results. This team includes Franchise (William Forsythe), a grizzled biker, Easy Wind (Bill Nunn), an easy-going African American, and Pieces (Christopher Lloyd), a projectionist who has an unidentified disease which causes his digits to fall off. The last member of the team is Critical Bill (Treat Williams), who works in a mortuary where he uses corpses as punching bags in order to "keep my powder dry."
The plan is to have Pieces and Critical Bill pose as Denver police officers. They will pull their target over on the highway and, under the pretext of some sort of traffic violation, take him to a waiting trailer where Jimmy and Franchise will administer a beating. The plan begins to go wrong when their target turns out to be more observant and spirited than anticipated. He immediately becomes suspicious of Pieces and Bill's identity as police officers and begins to ridicule them. This enrages Critical Bill, who pulls out a knife and stabs the man in the throat. At this point, the commotion rouses Bernard's ex-girlfriend, who had been sleeping in the back of the target's van. She comes out and screams when she sees her boyfriend's dead body. Startled, Pieces shoots her dead with a handgun.
The group realizes that they are in a terrible spot. What was supposed to have been a simple beating has ended up with them having two dead bodies on their hands, one of them someone looked on fondly by The Man With The Plan. They dispose of the bodies and Jimmy goes to see their employer. The Man With The Plan is furious at the outcome of their botched mission. He informs Jimmy that out of consideration for their past relationship he will allow him to live. However, the other members of the team have been sentenced to "buckwheats", which in the slang of the film means assassination in a particularly gruesome and painful manner (an example is given in which the person is shot up the anus).
The group comes to terms with their own impending deaths as they are stalked by a mild-mannered, yet deadly hitman known as Mr. Shhh (Steve Buscemi). Pieces accepts his fate, to which Shhh provides a quick death. Easy Wind goes into hiding with a gang lord named Baby Sinister (Glenn Plummer), but is given up after Shhh infiltrates and kills most of Sinister's entourage. Franchise attempts to flee with his family but is killed. Shhh finally locates a shut in Critical Bill, but is ambushed in Bill's home and the two kill each other. In the wake of Mr. Shhh's death the contract falls to a trio of Mexican brothers, who attempt to track down Jimmy. In his last days, Jimmy says goodbye to a woman Dagney (Gabrielle Anwar), he had fallen in love with. Knowing that he will most likely be killed, he murders Bernard for all the misery he indirectly brought upon the group. He also has sex with Lucinda (Fairuza Balk), a prostitute with whom he has long been acquainted, in order to fulfill her wish of having a baby. As he narrates in an Afterlife Advice video that he leaves as a farewell message for his unborn child, Jimmy realized that the only way he could exact revenge on The Man With The Plan is through his son. The trio of killers catch up to Jimmy but he takes his death with grace.
The man who had been narrating Jimmy's tale notes that while he died he still beat The Man With The Plan as he took away his only legacy; as such the crime boss never made another criminal act as he was completely broken. In the end, Jimmy and his dead friends are shown on a boat in the ocean, happily having "boat drinks".
- Andy Garcia - Jimmy 'The Saint' Tosnia
- Christopher Lloyd - Pieces
- William Forsythe - Franchise
- Bill Nunn - Easy Wind
- Treat Williams - Critical Bill
- Jack Warden - Joe Heff
- Steve Buscemi - Mister Shhh
- Fairuza Balk - Lucinda
- Gabrielle Anwar - Dagney
- Christopher Walken - The Man With The Plan
- Bill Cobbs - Malt
- Marshall Bell - Lt. Atwater
- Glenn Plummer - Baby Sinister
- Don Stark - Gus
- Willie Garson - Cuffy
- Jenny McCarthy - Blonde Nurse
- Buddy Guy - House Band
- Josh Charles - Bruce (uncredited)
- Don Cheadle - Rooster
- Tiny Lister - House
- Wiley Harker - Boris Carlotti
- Bill Bolender - Stevie's Dad
- Bill Erwin - 70-Year-Old Man
- Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead at AllRovi
- Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead at Box Office Mojo
- Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead at Rotten Tomatoes
- Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead at Metacritic
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