FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #90 – “Hell or High Water” (dir. David Mackenzie)

Poster for "Hell or High Water"

In this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel return from a wander on the plains to review Hell or High Water, a new modern western from Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, featuring a very familiar Jeff Bridges landing somewhere between his own mumbly personage from True Grit, and Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men. Can this Southern crime tale do enough to differentiate itself? Tune in and find out (34:17).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating: 7 out of 10

Show notes:

  • Music for this episode is the track “You Ask Me To” by Waylon Jennings from the film’s soundtrack, and Blakwall‘s cover of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door“, which appeared in the film’s trailer.
  • Steven Michael Quezada and Dean Norris, who played Gomie and Hank respectively in Breaking Bad, are more or less the exact same age. Whoops – we might’ve been reaching a bit hard for this comparison. But Gil Birmingham‘s character definitely played a similar role to Steven Gomez in this film.
  • Also the same age? Chris Pine and Ben Foster. Gonna chock this one up to movie makeup and styling – Foster definitely looked older here.
  • Also nearly the same age? Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham (66 and 63 respectively). So…we really biffed it on the age-related observations in this episode.
  • Apologies, Glenn was getting over the sniffles during this episode – we cut what we could.
  • Reverse mortgages are complicated. We correctly (albeit cynically) described the one that was featured in this film, but we’d encourage you to read up on them in detail before considering this film podcast too instructive on the subject.

Listen above, or download: Hell or High Water (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day: Resurgence” – An adequate expansion

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I have to imagine that a day on the set with Roland Emmerich is just endless exhortation that the world is exploding around you, it’s real, and you need to give a damn. When I compare his signature destruction to that of Michael Bay or Zach Snyder, the salient ingredient is always that Emmerich chooses to view it through the small eyes of people in small-scale, interchangeable stories who noticeably care about what’s happening, and also about each other. They’re also preternaturally lucky and can travel at unimaginable speeds (the movie literally handwaves this aloud at one point), but that’s all fine. These films are always about the luckiest people on the world; otherwise their stories would be rather short.

Independence Day was an unlikely action sci-fi classic that succeeded by taking a recognizable world (our own) and populating it with the casual sci-fi slaughter of a B-movie on a blockbuster budget. Strippers and mad scientists and mind control? You bet. Tentacles? For days. Two-dimensional WWII-style dogfighting and glorious catchphrases? Welcome to Earth, bitch. For a sequel set 20 real-time years later to succeed, it needed to credibly convey that this is a post-invasion world that has been fundamentally and catastrophically changed, à la Pacific Rim or Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and I’m pleased to say, Resurgence mostly succeeds at this. It does much of it through ham-fisted expository dialogue (“As you know…”), but by and large, it plays through the film’s mesmerizing visuals and grand conceptual ambitions. Have we rebuilt Washington, D.C., bigger and shinier than before? You better believe it, and a damn moon base to boot. We’ve also replaced all of our planes and helicopters with the aliens’ hovertech, and – in a minor spoken detail – the world is completely free of armed conflict.

Wide-eyed genius cable-guy/scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is back, in charge of the UN’s alien-infused Earth Defense. His buddy Captain Steven Hiller, USMC (Will Smith) is not, having been unceremoniously killed test-flying one of the new hi-tech fighter planes between the two films. He is joined by the two kids from the first film, Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher) and former First Daughter Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe). I’m inclined to comment on the tragedy of these next-gen fighter pilots being forced to resume fighting their parents’ endless interstellar war, but if I’m being honest, the only real tragedy is that Usher is a charisma vacuum compared to his late cinematic father. Monroe is capable, reviving the same acting chops she used to carry the lead role in It Follows.

Since the younger Hiller offers little in the way of buddy chemistry with anyone in the film, that role is instead filled by Whitmore’s fiancé, pilot and moon-base bad-boy Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), who operates as a sort of unlicensed space cabbie for David, hopping from the Moon to [unspecified plains], Africa, back to the Moon, then back down to Area-51 by way of London, all in about fifteen minutes of screentime. Don’t try to make geographical or logical sense of what I just typed. The key thing is, when London gets senselessly obliterated about seven seconds after reentry, I was waiting for someone to express sadness about it, and David’s French psychiatrist lady friend Catherine (Charlotte Gainsbourg) dutifully obliges, albeit riding the coattails of a pair of pee jokes. This sequence highlights the film’s greatest strengths and weaknesses simultaneously. It has the good sense to include believable character moments and people acting like human beings in the face of unimaginable destruction- but it operates at such a breakneck pace that these moments are very nearly lost in the shuffle. The film never stops to breathe for a moment. David never feels the despair of having spent two decades arming the Earth with defenses that proved utterly outmatched by the aliens’ second salvo, and doesn’t get hopelessly drunk in the Area-51 kitchen. He never thinks for a moment that he’s about to die, and busts out a cigar with a friend before his final moment. The characters in this film feel real pain and pathos as their new world comes to an end, and yet they power through it so quickly that it plays like they already know how the film will end. Granted, the film’s “twist” was a bit obvious, so perhaps even the characters had it worked out.

Still from

As far as the sci-fi action goes, I must reiterate that the film is visually stunning. Its final set-piece is a macro-scale marvel that is far more impressive than anything in Pacific Rim– it turns out a film gains many points with me by having the confidence to showcase its creations in a static, faraway view in broad daylight. It’s okay, the movie says, we know this looks awesome. And we don’t mind showing it to you. The fighter battles were a bit less interesting this time around, mostly because they succumbed to the temptation to overpopulate the screen with visual junk. But the film wisely avoids trying to perfectly recreate the battle-style of the first film, spending most of its time instead with the sort of high-concept sci-fi craziness that might occur when both sides have access to the same level of technology. The resulting battles are bizarre, but entertaining- and only occasionally incomprehensible.

There are other returning characters I haven’t mentioned. Judd Hirsch is put to appropriately goofy use, and Brent Spiner dials his mad scientist persona up to eleven. Vivica A. Fox has been promoted from stripper to surgeon (in a standard “We don’t know what to do with her so she’s a doctor now” piece of casting) and…probably should’ve stayed home. By and large, as a sequel to the first film and an expansion of the world, Independence Day: Resurgence succeeds. The film’s most potent avatar is former President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), who works best when he is credibly showcasing his scars from the first film, and falls flat when he is trying to recreate actual scenes from it. We don’t need the speech again. Perhaps it’s coincidence that today is the Fourth of July. And we’d best leave it at that and get back to the fight.

FilmWonk rating: 6 out of 10

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #89 – “The Brand New Testament” (dir. Jaco Van Dormael), “When War Comes Home” (dir. Michael King)

Poster for "When War Comes Home"

In this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel return to the Seattle International Film Festival, first to give a shout-out to the badass women of Angry Indian Goddesses, followed by some fanciful religious absurdity with The Brand New Testament. And then we conclude a trilogy of reviews that we’ve done on warrior subculture in the United States, with a deep dive on When War Comes Home, Emmy-award winning director Michael King‘s new documentary on soldiers living with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. This film divided us, both on what we think a documentary should be, and on the value of compelling human interest stories. Listen to us unpack the film below. (49:26).

Seattle area listeners:
There will be a special Flag Day screening of When War Comes Home at the Majestic Bay Theater, on Tuesday, June 14th, at 7:30PM. It will be followed by a panel discussion with several of the film’s subjects.

For free tickets, RSVP at this link.

May contain NSFW language.

Still from "The Brand New Testament"

FilmWonk rating (The Brand New Testament): 5 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (When War Comes Home): 6/10 (Daniel), 7.5/10 (Glenn)

Show notes:

  • [00:33] Brief : Angry Indian Goddesses
  • [07:20] Review: The Brand New Testament
  • [23:06] Review: When War Comes Home
  • Music for this episode is a pair of tracks from the outstanding soundtrack to Angry Indian Goddesses: “Zindagi“, written and performed by Anushka Manchanda, and “Kattey“, performed by Bhanvari Devi and Hard Kaur.
  • We didn’t issue a rating for Angry Indian Goddesses, since we didn’t do a full review segment for it. But suffice to say, we both loved the film. Check out its Facebook page for more info on how you can see it.
  • If you’re wondering what the hell I was talking about with Paul Rudd‘s computer – treat yourself here.
  • You can check out the episode that we referenced of Rose Eveleth‘s Flash Forward podcast here – and we highly recommend it!

Listen above, or download: The Brand New Testament, When War Comes Home (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #88 – “A Bigger Splash” (dir. Luca Guadagnino), “Death By Design” (dir. Sue Williams) (#SIFF2016)

Poster for "A Bigger Splash"

In this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel make an inauspicious start at the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival with an environmental documentary that did a rather poor job of convincing our heroes of things that they already believe. Then they hop overseas to check out the latest Italian collaboration between director Luca Guadagnino and actress Tilda Swinton. Stay tuned for spoilers, because we had vastly different reads on this film’s ending (38:37).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Death By Design): 2 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (A Bigger Splash): 6 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [00:46] Review: Death By Design
  • [11:36] Review: A Bigger Splash
  • [26:25] Spoilers: A Bigger Splash
  • Music for this episode is the track “Emotional Rescue” by The Rolling Stones, from the soundtrack to A Bigger Splash.
  • Glenn was probably butchering Matthias Schoenaerts‘ name pronunciation, but he is definitely not the first to sorta mistake him for Ryan Gosling, and he regrets nothing.

Listen above, or download: Death By Design, A Bigger Splash (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #87 – “Captain America: Civil War” (dir. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo)

Poster for "Captain America: Civil War"

This week on the podcast, Daniel engages in the as-yet-unprecedented behavior of suggesting that we review a new Marvel film, and shocks Glenn to his very core by enjoying it. Come along for the ride that proves that Marvel continues to check such basic storytelling boxes as “give them a good reason to fight” and “make us care”. Take notes, Zach Snyder – this is how a proper superhero clash is done (42:49).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating: 7.5 out of 10

Show notes:

  • Music for this episode is the tracks “Lagos” and “Clash” from the film’s original score, written by Henry Jackman.
  • Our initial screening was canceled for what we describe here as “the usual reasons”. If you’re curious what we mean by this, listen to our brief rant at the beginning of Episode 35.
  • Bit of fictional geography: Wakanda’s location has varied in Marvel lore, but all sources seem to agree that it’s located in northeastern Africa, somewhere in the region inhabited by real-life Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, and/or Ethiopia. Which is around 2,000 miles from Lagos, Nigeria (in West Africa), where the film’s opening scene takes place. In our discussion (where we got quite a bit wrong, geographically speaking), we referred to Wakanda as the fictional product of an alternate history in which an African monarchy remained untouched by European colonialism, but after recording (and consulting Wikipedia), we remembered that there is a potential real-life parallel for Wakanda, in the Ethiopian Empire (also known as Abyssinia), which successfully avoided colonization. The last Emperor, Haile Selassie I (also the founder and principal religious figure of Rastafarianism) ruled the country for 44 years until he was overthrown by a Soviet-backed communist coup in 1974.
  • Daniel stumped me at one point by asking whether the black panther species is native to Africa. The answer: Yes, kind of. Turns out the term refers to the melanistic (dark-pigmented) variant of a number of species in the Panthera genus. According to Wikipedia, black panthers in Asia and Africa are leopards, whereas the ones in the Americas are jaguars. Also, gibbons are apes, not monkeys. Yay knowledge!
  • Correction: Whoops, Don Cheadle was totally in Iron Man 3. Remember the Iron Patriot? Because we totally forgot him. He was definitely present in the final showdown as well. We regret the error.

Listen above, or download: Captain America: Civil War (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

“How to Let Go of the World” (dir. Josh Fox) – Group therapy for climate realists

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Despite its title, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, an upcoming HBO documentary from Gasland director Josh Fox, is not trying to convince anyone of the realities of human-caused climate change. Nonetheless, it spends the first 40 minutes of its runtime dwelling on each of those effects in a gonzo, rapid-fire fashion, and allowing Fox, its frequent on-screen subject, to lapse into despair as he gradually learns the enormity of it all. Fox’s emotional journey is fundamentally at the center of the film, and between its frequent reliance on poetic (and occasionally stilted) voiceover to its various montages of original music produced on-screen by people who have been directly affected by climate change, How to Let Go of the World functions less like a documentary, and more like a sort of group therapy session for people who aren’t afraid to accept the scientific consensus and innumerable lines of evidence supporting climate change, but feel ill-equipped to confront that reality in any meaningful way by themselves. Full disclosure: I’m definitely a part of this demographic.

This is an exercise that runs a serious risk of self-indulgence, but what ultimately makes this film work so well is Fox’s credibly humble approach to such a daunting problem as climate change, and beautiful visual storytelling style as he documents this personal journey. He visits the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in New York, witnessing the destruction and death along the Long Island Coast. Even as he remains on camera and speaking over the footage, he removes the focus from himself and points his camera squarely at the poorest and most vulnerable people – a focus that persists throughout the film. As a subway musician begins playing a hauntingly beautiful song (listen to it here!), a montage of Sandy’s unrelenting destruction flows across the screen. What follows is a litany of interviews with various climate experts (including one shot unauthorized in the Ronald Reagan Building cafeteria in D.C.), outlining just how dire the situation is now (with 1C of warming), soon (with a guaranteed 0.5C of additional warming even if we halted all CO2 emissions), and in the future (with a >2C increase). The 5-9 meter sea level rises, the loss of species and ecosystems, the displacement of hundreds of millions of climate refugees, the disease, blight, and death. And then it stops, because it’s all too much. Fox gives up, returns to his Pennsylvania hometown, and collapses into a desperate snow-angel figure on the wintry ground of his favorite childhood forest. The camera floats straight up into the sky as the poetic voiceover continues, shrinking Fox’s person – and potential impact – into a minor black dot in the distant snow. Remember what I said about self-indulgence? This was a genuinely touching moment, and simultaneously the point where if Fox had continued wallowing in his impending doom, I would’ve had a difficult time continuing to take the film seriously. But this is exactly when the film’s journey begins.

Still from

Fox asks a new question: What are the things that climate change can’t destroy? What will it leave behind? And in a moment, all of the footage of forests and oceans and glaciers and mountaintops spontaneously gets more lush and beautiful than the bleak, desaturated despair of the first act, and the film becomes nearly as slick a globe-trotting climate change doc as Racing Extinction, while perhaps remaining a bit more grounded in the human storytelling. If we can’t stop the worst effects of climate change, he asks, what can we do? The film hops around the world, telling tales of various local efforts to resist expanded fossil fuel speculation and fight climate change in critical areas. Fox keeps his camera trained on indigenous peoples who are being subjected against their will to the quasi-colonialist expansion of western energy production, posing a question which shouldn’t require an answer in 2016 – should a remote tribe be permitted to live as they wish, even if there is an alternative way of living that our western experience says must be better? We have our cars and lights and antibiotics, but what if these tribes simply have no interest in them?

The film is hardly fetishizing an archetype of the noble savage here – this perspective does not go unexamined as the film goes on. But the film’s initial view of this conflict, between the Ecuadorian government (who had an impending deal with an Argentine oil company) and natives in a remote river village called Sarayaku, presents it as a straightforward moral issue. The natives aren’t merely being offered an alternative to their indigenous lifestyle- they are having the very production of that alternative forced upon them. They can come join us in the cities and play with our plastic widgets and electricity, but we’ll have to destroy their ancestral homeland and drill for oil to create those things. The question of whether one way of life is better or worse than another is a complex one, fraught with questions about human rights and resource allocation and cultural identity. But by focusing on such a specific instance where the rights of the natives were being set aside in a zero-sum manner for those of a fossil fuel company, Fox successfully strips a great deal of the moral complexity out of the situation. Sure, energy production is an essential part of civilization. It warms and empowers and educates people, and can bring them out of poverty. Later in the film, we even see an instance of solar-powered irrigation pumps being distributed in Zambia to help impoverished women make a living by growing and selling vegetables, and thus avoid being swept up into their only alternative trade – prostitution. The film isn’t afraid to muddy the waters a bit on these issues, but it distills them into a fine argument for the idea that people should be free to refuse an outsider’s definition of progress if they wish, especially if it accompanies destruction of their way of life. This is just one small conflict in one small place, but its relevance to the lopsided struggle against climate change is palpable.

Still from

This theme continues as the film shifts its focus to Pacific Islanders, whose homes aren’t merely threatened with oil production, but rather total destruction through sea level rise. One unexpectedly poignant section focuses an affable, dancing Samoan man, Mika Maiava (whom Fox ably identifies as “the Jack Black of climate change”), a spokesman for a group of activists called the Pacific Climate Warriors. We first see the Warriors during an impressive segment in which islanders in hand-carved canoes blockade an Australian coal port. This sequence is spectacular in its tense, on-the-water coverage, and I don’t dare speak of it in too much detail. After the blockade is over, as Fox returns with Maiava to his home island to get footage of an odd local custom.

We quickly meet Maiava’s pregnant (and past-due) wife, and he tells the tale: when a baby is born, they save the placenta, and plant it in the ground, along with a coconut tree. The tree grows tall, and forms a life-long connection between the islanders and their homeland as they grow up. I must confess, I initially rolled my eyes a bit at this on-the-nose metaphor, and even wrote in my notes, “Probably don’t need to mention the placenta-trees.” As Maiava and Fox take a roadtrip to visit his father’s tree, the islander engages in what seems to be commonplace gallows humor, joking about how they’re all gonna drown when the island disappears into the sea. And then, with some difficulty, they find the spot. And Mika Maiava transforms in front of me and breaks my heart, as he realizes, for the first time on camera, that his father’s tree is gone. The entire small section of coast where it had been planted had succumbed to coastal erosion. This warrior, who fights every day for the future of his unborn child, is deconstructed before my eyes. His tough, but jovial demeanor melts away, and he is reduced to tears.

Still from

This segment embodies what makes this film so effective – its reliance on moments of genuine and irrepressible humanity. I’ve only mentioned a handful of the innumerable segments – Fox also visits the choking smog of Beijing and the Chinese countryside (where the film takes a surprisingly intense turn), melting glaciers in Iceland, and various other locations that climate change is likely to touch in some way. And in each spot, he rapidly establishes a setting and manages to tell a quick, human story in the process. Not all of these vignettes succeed (the “dancing democracy” scene is a bit baffling), but I’m hard-pressed to find one that didn’t affect me in some way. Early in the film, as Fox explores the wreckage of Sandy, he admits a minor journalistic failing, as they walk past the house of a widower whose wife had just drowned in the storm. “I just couldn’t bring myself to point the camera in a grieving man’s face and ask, ‘Can I get your story on camera?'” By bringing his camera around the world and pointing it in the faces of people who are certainly in need of help, but are nonetheless fighting for their futures every day, Fox attempts to flip the script on climate change from a daunting problem that we’re all powerless to arrest, to a daunting problem that we’re empowered to unite and face together. How to Let Go of the World is at once inspiring and sad – and a cultural document that will age in a manner entirely dependent on what we do next.

FilmWonk rating: 7.5 out of 10

How To Let Go of the World premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is currently on a tour of the US. It will be playing in Seattle from May 20-26 at the Varsity Theatre, and there will be a Q&A with the filmmakers after the Friday, May 20th screening at 7PM. More info at this link. The documentary will also air on HBO this summer.

Editor’s note:
This review seems like a good spot to mention that my home state of Washington is trying to pass a ballot initiative for a statewide, revenue-neutral tax on carbon emissions in November. Pollution gets taxed, and 100% of the revenue goes back to the people. Pretty much a no-brainer economically – we nudge ourselves in the right direction, away from pollution, in a cost-effective manner. If you’re a Washingtonian, know that we have a chance to lead the nation in fighting climate change here and now.

Join the fight today and help I-732 pass in November.

“Keanu” (dir. Peter Atencio) – An adorable kitten, and that’s all I’m prepared to concede

Poster for "Keanu"

I was first introduced to Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele by way of their prolific YouTube presence under the auspices of their Comedy Central sketch show, Key and Peele. And it is unfortunate for these two legitimately talented and likable comedians that the two sketches that everyone kept insistently sharing with me were “Substitute Teacher” – in which a black teacher mispronounces, with gradually mounting rage, all of the white kids’ names – and “East/West College Bowl“, in which the pair (and others) play a series of verbal introductions of increasingly absurdly named black college football players. Each of these sketches had sequels, which were also shared with me, and before I ever watched a single full-length episode of Key and Peele, I was left with the unfair, but nonetheless persistent impression that these two comics only had a single solid joke between them – name-based racial humor. And as amusing as I found it, I resisted watching their sketch show for a long time because of it.

That feeling came roaring back this evening as I watched the pair’s first duo feature, Keanu, written by Peele and Community alum Alex Rubens. After a pair of unnamed brothers from Allentown slaughter a gangland drug operation, one of the only survivors is a compulsively adorable kitten, who wanders off and appears on the doorstep of bong-toking lonely-heart Rell (Peele), who immediately adopts him and names him Keanu. His best friend, suburban family man Clarence (Key) takes him out for a night on the town, and before you can say “premise”, Rell’s apartment is ransacked, and his kitten is kidnapped. What begins is an odyssey of fish-out-of-water crime as the pair of milquetoast nerds try their best to play gangster and rise up through the ranks of gangland Los Angeles so they can reclaim their feline friend.

This is a rich premise for an action-comedy. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy a great deal of it, mostly owing to the persistent likability and friendship between the two leads. The pair reminded me of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street, with their mutual affinity never in doubt even as they are swept up in increasingly dire circumstances. Unfortunately, unlike Jump Street, Keanu is a humdrum action flick, a dull and directionless comedy, and a tonally inconsistent mess that meanders from one shallow sketch premise to the next, lingering too long on the ones that weren’t all that funny (no one will be seated during the “Gangsters listen to George Michael” scene), and blasting through the ones where the tone turns pitch-black in an instant. Late in the film, a character reminds Rell that his actions have consequences. But despite this after-school special moment, the consequences are nonsensical and short-lived.

Still from "Keanu" (2016)

I really can’t overstate how underwhelming the action was in this film. Director Peter Atencio never once instills each interchangeable slow-mo shootout with any real sense of danger or coherence, and rather than feeling like a film that didn’t quite have the budget to realize its grand ideas (looking at you, Deadpool), Keanu instead feels like a film that had just enough budget to render some extremely simplistic and uninteresting ideas that they thought sounded cool on paper. There’s a shoot-out at a mansion! With a character we just met and don’t care about. There’s a car chase, and the kitten is in danger! No, he’s not, even though he really ought to be. There’s a gun pointed at Key and Peele’s faces! *forcible yawn* Get on with not shooting them already. At least they each maybe got to do a flip off a wall?

Keanu seemed content to barrel through each of its action beats and extricate its characters with improbable plot twists or outright surreal nonsense. None of the personal stakes for the characters are spelled out in any way. Rell just broke up with his [completely unseen] girlfriend, and has no one in his life but the titular cat that he wants back at all costs. And Clarence’s family is safely off-screen with a would-be cuckhold (Rob Heubel) for 90% of the film’s runtime. Their identity crisis about whether or not either of them is sufficiently “gangster” never feels authentic for a second, as they’re both clearly nerds. And unlike, say, the lead in Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope, they never once use their nerdery to their advantage. They just try their best to talk tough, and occasionally, accidentally do something that makes them look tough. The only character beat that comes anywhere close to justifying their persistent criminal pursuit of the cat is their visible regard and friendship for one another, and this thread wears thin quickly as they spend far more time blithely endangering each other’s lives than not.

The less said about the film’s last five minutes, the better – and after watching them, I know it seems harsh to judge a film so rigidly when it seems so determined to keep one teetering foot in Comedy World. There’s an adorable kitten that they need to find, and goldurnit, they’re gonna wander amongst some interchangeable gangsters to do it. But comedy is hard, and even a silly, fluffy mess like Sisters did a better job of telling me what these absurd characters mean to one another, and why they’re so desperate to do the Big, Dumb Thing that they mean to do by the film’s end. Keanu wasn’t Jump Street, Hot Fuzz, or The Other Guys. It wasn’t even MacGruber or Austin Powers. It was a pretty cute cat with a couple of pretty likable owners. And that’s all I’m prepared to concede.

FilmWonk rating: 4 out of 10