The Bill Murray renaissance, which we'll define as commencing with "Rushmore" in 1998, has offered countless memorable characters and performances, not to mention the perfection of a genuinely mysterious, playful public persona.
"St. Vincent," a worthy addition to the canon, finds the mercurial actor playing a grumpy south Brooklyn Vietnam veteran who reluctantly befriends Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), the kid of divorced parents who moves next door.
Clad in camoflauge shorts and favoring wife-beaters, zoning out to his walkman on retro lawn chairs, Murray's Vincent is quite the personality. He's gruff and luckless, an obsessive gambler without steady employment who has been forever scarred by his experience in Southeast Asia. There's a kind soul beneath the scruff, of course, which Oliver slowly draws out.
The movie is a coming of age story told from the opposite perspective, in which the neighbor stands front and center. It offers a stylish vision of blue-collar locales such as Marine Park and Sheepshead Bay and is filled by writer-director Theodore Melfi with the sort of eccentric New York spirit that's too often missing from portraits of life in the big city these days.
Most of all, it's a chance for Murray to just act the hell out of a juicy part. When (in a clip wisely released early by The Weinstein Company) his Vincent sings along to Bob Dylan's "Shelter from the Storm" on his walkman while relaxing on a lawn chair, you never want him to stop.