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April 19, 2010 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

Gentlemen Broncos

In Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre Jared Hess was criticised for supposedly being cruel, urging viewers to laugh at, not with, the quirky characters. I disagree and think it is clear that Hess loved his protagonists in these films. Even if the audience found some of their eccentricities amusing, they would definitely be cheering for them by the end. I cannot say the same about his third film, Gentlemen Broncos.

The premise is almost promising. Benjamin (Michael Angarano) is a nerd who writes science fiction stories. His literary hero, Chevalier (Jemaine Clement), steals his story and changes the names of the characters. The resulting conflict is interspaced with fantasy sequences depicting the story and its hero (Sam Rockwell).

Benjamin, however, lacks any of the determination of Napoleon or Nacho. The solution to his problems doesn’t come from dancing or wrestling but from a ridiculous deus ex machina. Other than a short burst of action that lands him in jail, Benjamin doesn’t actually do anything through the entire film. He just sits there redundantly while his work is plagiarised, a girl falls in love with him and his mother struggles to make ends meet. Angarano doesn’t give a bad performance. He doesn’t perform at all. He just sits there while ridiculous things happen around him.

Some may still hold out hope that Jemaine will do the same as Rhys Darby and bring appeal to an awful film. Yes, Jemaine is the best thing about Broncos by default. But while his plummy plagiarism produces some of the film’s only laughs, most of these scenes are in the trailer and he fails to save it from failure.

Similarly, the presence of the talented Rockwell is inconsequential. He spends his scenes under Battlefield Earth levels of makeup and the focus of the fantasy segments is not on him but on flying robot deer, patrolling cyclopses and yeast.

Finally, the film isn’t funny and its characters aren’t likeable. A snake defecates on Mike White, Jennifer Coolidge gets shot in the breast with a dog shit-coated dart and Sam Rockwell sews a severed testicle on. All this and we don’t care; not even Hess shows any indication of liking them, it is unlikely that you will.

If you want to see Jemaine, watch the trailer. If you want to see Rockwell, watch Moon. If you liked Napoleon Dynamite you will hate this film. If you liked Nacho Libre you will hate this film. If you hated both of them you will definitely hate this film. If you are a sadist that gets pleasure from watching unpleasant characters in unpleasant situations or a masochist who gets pleasure from watching bad films then you will like this film, otherwise avoid it.

Directed by: Jared Hess


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