Thursday, April 14, 2011


Alternate Title:  It's a Bird!  It's a Plane!  It's Psychoman!

One sentence synopsis:  A short-order cook loser becomes a superhero to rescue his wife from a drug dealer.

Things Havoc liked:  I love most of the cast of this film. Ellen Page has been awesome in largely everything I've seen her in from Juno to Inception. Kevin Bacon is good in good movies and even better in terrible movies and here plays a sleazy, slimy, awesome drug dealing scumbag effortlessly. Nathan Fillion, it is well known, exists on this earth for the sole purpose of gallivanting about while being awesome. And Michael Rooker is one of my favorite recognizable-but-not-nameable character actors around. All four of the above cited actors do excellent (if demented) jobs in this film. Bacon's drug dealer is hilarious and slimy in equal measure. Fillion plays some kind of Christian Superhero on TV in sequences of shameless hammyness. Rooker goes through the entire movie acting like the only sane person at a convention of the mad. Page's character is simply and convincingly off-her-meds insane.

Rainn Wilson, the main character, better known from the Office TV show, is not really in these people's leagues (and neither is his wife, played by Liv Tyler), but he does a credible enough job. The movie requires that he play a repressed, overweight loser with a semi-hidden streak of quasi-incoherent rage run through him, suppressed only with difficulty. He does this. Indeed, weirdly for a movie that is supposed to be a sort of screwball dark comedy, Wilson plays this guy like an axe murderer waiting to happen, perfectly straight without any comedic overtones. The effect is unsettling. There is a scene near the end of the film where he has cornered one of the bad guys and is screaming into his face about "The Rules" and why one simply doesn't violate them by dealing drugs or kidnapping people, and one senses palpable, intense, and largely unfocused hate that seems both very real and oddly effective, though perhaps better suited for a film other than this one.

Things Havoc disliked:   That really is the problem in fact. The tone of this movie is all over the map. There are scenes that play as farce, and others, often right next to them, that seem to be dredged up out of American History X, and then back to comedy without a second thought. It doesn't really work. Wilson's character is pathetic all right, and frustrated, and repressing what is obviously seething, boiling anger at the frustrations of society, but it doesn't feel comedic or exaggerated, it feels real. This poses two problems. First it makes the film overall go from hilarious to just... icky at parts, particularly as the film never shies away from gory, graphic shots of the actual results of the violence it portrays (beating someone to death against a tile floor or breaking their skull with a pipe wrench are not clean activities). I don't object to gore, nor to realistic violence, but there is a time and a place for it, and this movie does not set out to create that time and place. Second, as largely everyone but Wilson are playing characters straight out of a farce, it feels all the more jarring that he is attempting to play this intensely driven maniac.

Final thoughts:  It is, of course, inevitable that this movie will be compared to Kick Ass, given the subject matter. Unfortunately, it does not stack up well in the comparison. Kick Ass was an excellent film, funny, riotous, violent, farcical, and generally awesome in pretty much all respects. This movie can't pull the same weight. Kick Ass' protagonist was a nerdy loser, but he was likable, believable, and most importantly, not a psycho. The kid sidekick in Kickass, who was a psycho, was still a likable psycho, partly due to being a young kid, a thin pastiche of superheroes in general. The one in this movie is a deranged, almost squicky woman afflicted with obvious and violent pathologies who does not care overmuch what or who she kills. The violence in Kick Ass rapidly became so over the top as to be hilarious and awesome, and was directed towards targets that we felt were deserving of it. That of this film is gruesome and gritty, and the recipients of it are often wholly arbitrary (there is a scene where our hero beats a man and his wife unconscious with a pipe wrench for cutting in line at the movie theater), which spoils the fun of the movie entirely, and hits us periodically with wholly off-color (if unexpected) moments and scenes. Kevin Bacon redeems much of the film with his sliminess, Nathan Fillion is hilarious to watch, and the rest of the cast turn in decent performances, albeit ones better suited to a completely different movie.

This movie opened in limited release with little fanfare.  As with Kill the Irishman, I feel that I now know why.

Final Score:  5/10

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