Mini Reviews (October 2016)
Love or Lust, The Trust, Real Men
Love or Lust (October 16/16)
Written by Simon Boisvert, Love or Lust follows Boisvert's Mark as he and his much younger girlfriend (Jillian Harris' Stephanie) arrive at their Vermont getaway for a relaxing weekend of hiking and board games - with complications ensuing after Stephanie announces that she wants to end the relationship. From there, the movie details Mark's post-breakup efforts at moving on with his life and figuring out what he wants out of a romantic coupling - which eventually leads him right back into the arms of his college girlfriend, Julie (Izabelle Moreau). It's a slight, super low-key premise that's employed to watchable yet thoroughly erratic effect by filmmaker Christian Belz Parenteau, as the movie, which runs a brisk 76 minutes, contains a decidedly stagy feel that's heightened by Boisvert's total emphasis on Mark's conversations with both Stephanie and Julie. The relentless dialogue does grow a little oppressive from time to time, to be sure, although it's worth noting that Boisvert has packed his screenplay with trenchant observations on modern relationships. (There is, for example, a pretty fantastic bit of dialogue in which Mark compares dating to the Showcase Showdown on The Price is Right.) Love or Lust's meandering atmosphere does, in the end, prevent it from become a wholeheartedly engaging cinematic experience, with the film's strong script and appropriately short running time ultimately compensating for its palpably rough-around-the-edges vibe.
The Trust (October 23/16)
The Trust casts Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood as Jim Stone and David Waters, a pair of evidence-room police officers who embark on a dangerous heist after learning of a mysterious vault - with the movie, naturally, detailing the various problems that naturally ensue. It's a well-worn premise that's initially employed to watchable effect by Alex and Benjamin Brower, with the filmmakers employing a breezy, fast-paced opening stretch that's heightened by admittedly stellar work from both Wood and Cage. (The latter's irresistibly relaxed performance stands as an obvious highlight throughout.) It's distressing to note, then, that The Trust begins a slow-but-steady decline into irrelevance once it passes a certain point, as the narrative shifts into a stagy, filmed-play-like midsection that transpires mostly within the confines of a dimly-lit apartment. The viewer's interest in the protagonists' exploits dwindles steadily during the movie's second half, naturally, and it's clear, too, that the grim, downbeat conclusion ultimately feels at odds with the comparatively lighthearted first act. (It goes without saying that the finale, then, is hardly able to pack the emotional punch that the Brower siblings were presumably aiming for.) There is, in the end, a lot to like and enjoy contained within The Trust, but it's predominantly outweighed (and essentially negated) by an unfocused narrative that grows more and more tiresome as it progresses.
Real Men (October 31/16)
Real Men casts John Ritter as Bob Wilson, a mild-mannered insurance salesman who is forced to assist a brash government agent (Jim Belushi's Nick Pirandello) with a dangerous mission involving visitors from another planet. Said mission turns out to be fraught with complications and detours, however, as Nick, who has elected to take the "scenic route" to an important meeting point, drags Bob to one broadly-conceived and terminally laugh-free encounter after another. (There is, for example, a sequence in which the mismatched pair are forced to fight corrupt FBI agents dressed as clowns.) It's ultimately rather astonishing just how little within Real Men wholeheartedly works, as writer/director Dennis Feldman has infused the proceedings with an aggressively over-the-top sensibility that grates right from the word go. There's nothing entertaining or humorous about any of this, ultimately, and it's impossible not to wonder just what Feldman originally set out to accomplish with this incompetent mess. Ritter and Belushi are, of course, completely wasted in their respective roles, while Feldman's patchwork, desperately unfunny screenplay ensures that Real Men grows more and more interminable as time slowly progresses - which, when coupled with an eye-rollingly stupid final few minutes, certainly confirms the movie's place as an almost epically terrible misfire that's deservedly been forgotten in the years since its 1987 release.