Netflix Mini-Review – Mr. Right: This Was So Close To Amazing

I caught a hitman comedy I missed from 2015 and it really should have been good.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Martha McKay (Anna Kendrick) is recently single and slightly crazy. Professional hitman “Clown Nose” (Sam Rockwell) is recently getting out of the contract killing game by murdering all of his clients and is extremely crazy. Clown Nose is being hunted by a former associate, Hopper (Tim Roth). Martha and Clown Nose (AKA Mr. Right) meet and the two hit it off solidly. Despite both of their odd natures, they quickly develop affection. Unfortunately, Mr. Right gets caught up in a scheme involving the mobsters Von Cartigan and Richard Cartigan (James Ransone and Anson Mount) and their henchmen Johnny Moon and Steve (Michael Eklund and the RZA), with Martha getting dragged along with him.

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Wuv, twue wuv.

END SUMMARY

Somehow, I didn’t hear about this film when it came out, but apparently it just got added to Netflix and I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, it turns out that there was a reason why this movie didn’t get on my radar before now. It’s not that this movie was really “bad” in the way that, say, Gigli is bad, it’s that this movie should, by most metrics, have been awesome, yet it really isn’t.

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I mean, Sam Rockwell in a clown nose shooting people should be amazing.

I love Grosse Pointe Blank, Deadpool, Pulp Fiction, John Wick, and even Shoot ‘Em Up, so I can say that I have a certain fondness for the humorous hitman genre. I’m also a huge fan of Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick, including the former’s role in Seven Psychopaths, and the pair have a ridiculous amount of chemistry in this film. Despite the fact that the movie almost completely relies on them falling in love at basically first sight, you can feel the spark between them vividly enough to buy it. Similarly, despite their extreme eccentricities, their performances somehow make it seem believable. The RZA and Rockwell have a similar chemistry as “frenemies.” The hitman scenes are extremely comically violent, although in a rated-R way, something that usually works well for me.  

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Martha has a solid character arc… mostly?

However, the movie manages to fall flat on its face. First, the pacing is terrible. The movie has to rush through their courtship in order to make sure that we can have an entire third act dedicated to action sequences. The problem is that I genuinely enjoy watching them interact and I think that more time would have worked to the movie’s benefit. Second, like all movie hitmen, Mr. Right is hyper accurate and somehow can’t be hit by return fire, but this movie takes that way beyond the normal suspension of disbelief. He’s basically got superpowers and it really takes the audience out of it at times. Third, the plot is slightly more complicated than it needs to be, due to the simultaneous and separate plotlines involving Mr. Right and Martha, Hopper, and the mobsters. Then there are like 3 short subplots that also don’t help matters. Lastly, the dialogue is… well, it’s Max Landis’s college screenplay, so that probably explains why it doesn’t quite work most of the time.  

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The whole “Dancing to Dodge Gunfire” thing seems great on paper, I guess.

Overall, the problem with this movie isn’t that it’s bad, but that it could so easily have been really great with minor changes. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Oscar Review – Vice: Being Evil Is Bad and Stuff

Adam McKay brings us an off-kilter movie about the life of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

SUMMARY

The movie is narrated by Kurt (Jesse Plemons), a soldier, as he discusses the life of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) as well as the impact his presence had on the Bush administration.

The film starts with an alcoholic Dick Cheney getting a DUI and being told to clean up his life by his wife, Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams). Later, Cheney works for the Nixon administration and discovers that the US secretly bombed Cambodia under the advice of Henry Kissinger (Kirk Bovill). Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) ends up being distanced from Nixon, and Cheney, his intern, starts to fall out of grace, but then Nixon resigns and Rumsfeld is the Secretary of Defense and Cheney becomes White House Chief of Staff, due to them being the only members not really connected with the fallout.

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Behold, the face of… not Richard Nixon.

After the Ford administration ends, Cheney has a heart attack and becomes a Congressman from Wyoming, mostly with his wife’s help, and starts to support a bunch of policies that blatantly help corrupt corporations gain lucrative positions and greater control over industries. Cheney serves as Secretary of Defense during the first Bush Administration, but then decides to retire from public life after finding out that his youngest daughter, Mary (Alison Pill), is a lesbian. He then becomes the head of Halliburton and becomes fabulously wealthy.

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I have avoided a single joke about his name. I want that on the record.

Cheney gets asked to be the running mate for George W. Bush (Sam “Regular or Extra Menthol” Rockwell) during the 2000 Presidential Election, which Cheney agrees to on the condition that he be allowed to have more power than a typical Vice President. Bush, not particularly caring about actually being President, agrees. As VP, Cheney brings Rumsfeld in as Secretary of Defense, David Addington (Don McManus) as legal counsel, and Scooter Libby (Justin Kirk) as Chief of Staff. Together, they make all of the actual foreign policy and defense decisions in the administration. Then, 9/11 happens.

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Again, this is mostly a comedy film.

The movie depicts Cheney as using the attacks as a way to preside over the U.S. Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, resulting in numerous deaths and the rise of ISIS. Kurt, the narrator, served in the military during both of these invasions and witnessed killing of civilians and extrajudicial torture of prisoners.  Meanwhile, Cheney has multiple heart issues which eventually put him on his deathbed. He says a tearful goodbye to his family, but Kurt is killed while jogging and his heart saves Cheney’s life.

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He’s not in great health.

At the end of the movie, Liz Cheney (Lily Rabe) wins her father’s seat in Congress after speaking out against gay marriage, leading Mary Cheney to leave the family. The film then breaks the fourth wall and has an angry Cheney state that he has no regrets about anything he’s done. A mid-credits scene depicts a focus group where a right-wing viewer calls the film biased and violently attacks a panelist who disagrees while most of the other panelists focus on upcoming action movies.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, this was the movie that I least imagined would get nominated for an Oscar out of all of the nominees, even Black Panther. I didn’t think super highly of A Star Is Born, but I thought it was Oscar bait. BlacKkKlansman seemed like a shoo-in, same with Roma. Bohemian Rhapsody wowed me with spectacle in the theater, so it wasn’t until later that I realized “oh, this dialogue is actually kind of lousy.” Green Book had Mahershala Ali’s performance in a film that makes Hollywood feel good. The Favourite was a period piece with great costumes and three amazing leads and artistic angles, so that’s basically a gimme. This movie, though…

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But Boots Riley gets nothing.

Adam McKay is a very talented director, ranging from Anchorman and Talladega Nights to The Big Short. He’s great at doing very stylized movies that have lots of solid comic elements, as well as occasional sudden shifts in tone or focus, like the “Afternoon Delight” scene in Anchorman or the multiple fourth-wall breaks to explain concepts in The Big Short. This movie has devices similar to those, but I think it went a little overboard on them while trying to handle a subject that it simultaneously wants to mock and also to take seriously. You have the framing device of the narrator, but also false endings, fourth wall breaks, the focus group, the double time shift from 9/11… it’s just a little too much structural mutation within a film that isn’t exactly sure what tone it wants to take. This film portrays horrible events and wants you to think about how horrible they are… but then makes a few one-liners about how ignorant Americans are. It’s not impossible to do both of these tones in one film, but I don’t think they quite pulled it off here.

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Those glasses are reserved for directors.

The film presents Dick Cheney as both a wasted dropout who lucked into a job and also a brilliant schemer who essentially uses Machiavellian tactics to gain power and wealth, but it never really connects with how he can be both. Yes, people are multifaceted, that’s the beauty of dealing with real people rather than archetypes, but even with Bale’s great performance (and it is absolutely fantastic), Cheney only seems to be a series of shifting characters, not one man that is all of these things. It clearly says that he’s a bad person, and the film takes the stance that everything he does is pretty much awful, but saying “oh, hey, this humorously over-the-top villain is bad” is a little less subtle than Bale’s performance merited.

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Again, the guy on the right is BATMAN.

That said, every performance in this is amazing. Bale’s so good you wouldn’t even believe he’s the same guy who played Batman or Patrick Bateman, while Rockwell reminds us once again that he is an almost unbelievable talent. If you haven’t watched Moon or Seven Psychopaths, you’re missing out. Amy Adams is a national freaking treasure and should be treated as such. Steve Carell, Lily Rabe, Alison Pill, Tyler Perry, all of them did amazing work. If there is one thing to be said about this, everyone was giving 110%.

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Jesse Plemons’ performance was heart-taking. I REFUSE TO APOLOGIZE FOR THIS DAD JOKE.

My biggest complaint, though, and it’s a very personal one to me, is that this movie breaks one of my cardinal rules of filmmaking: It tells the audience that you’re wrong to not like it. It presents all the people who aren’t excited about the film as either vapid idiots who don’t care enough about the world to pay attention or angry idiots who are going to be pissed about the liberalism of Hollywood. Even if you were to believe both of those things, and you very well might, just acknowledging these people to mock them doesn’t ever do anything positive. If you believe that what you’re saying, even if it will be criticized, is still worth saying, THEN F*CKING SAY IT. Don’t try to pre-defend yourself by taking shots at your detractors, just say what you believe and stand by it. 

Overall, I don’t dislike the movie, in fact I thought a lot of parts of it were good and inventive, but the structure was a little too messy for me to really think it was going to be an Oscar nominee. But maybe that’s why I only write for a few hundred people on the internet, rather than Time Magazine.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.