STIFF Film Review – Antihero
How does one go about writing a review of an independent film such as Antihero (2011)? Whenever a person or a group of people are able to create a feature-length film, a bit of credit has to be given, because it’s a very difficult feat to accomplish. I once read that each and every completed film can be seen as a miracle, and I can understand that. The elements that prevent a film from happening are much more abundant than the forces that go to support it, and I have no doubt that every movie made is a culmination of the tireless work and effort by those that believe in it. And yet, that is the very dilemma when it comes to writing about them.
I’m sure that writer/director Joseph Weindl was very passionate about his movie, because when you barely have a budget to finish it, passion is usually the sole driving force. And while I applaud Weindl and his collaborators for seeing their project through from beginning to end, I have to be honest and say that I did not find any kind of attachment to it. This is a sci-fi/action comedy that contained very little science fiction, action, or comedy anywhere within its story. Many independent films are able to build creative ways around their limited monetary funds and yet still be convincing enough for us to go along with it. Here, however, the restraints are painfully noticeable. The lack of resources float just below the surface, slightly hidden underneath a paper-thin plot with characters that simply don’t come off as believable. If anything, I found this film to be merely a stepping-stone, a practice round that will hopefully lead to better places for everyone involved. There are some good ideas going on here, they are just not efficiently executed for us to fully explore them.
A part of the reason why I found little satisfaction in the film is the two main leads. The story revolves around friends Pork Rind (Brian Gartland) and Weezie (Joseph Carlson). When there are characters named “Pork Rind” and “Weezie” in a movie, I’m already casting my suspicions about it, and my suspicions were confirmed when I learned that these two friends are classic movie slackers. You’ve seen them before: lazy, unkempt, no ambition, happily content with eating junk food, drinking beer, and hanging out all day. I don’t necessarily have an issue with slacker movies—in fact, some of the better slacker movies are just coming-of-age films in disguise. The problem here is that Pork Rind (jeez, I hate writing that as an actual character’s name) and Weezie are completely fine with how they are, not really looking to better their lives in any meaningful way. Instead, they spend their time loafing around and habitually stealing other people’s possessions, which includes them breaking into homes. Are we really supposed to be siding with these two losers when the first act of the movie is all about them committing robberies?
Things get interesting when, while searching around a home they snuck into, Pork Rind and Weezie come upon a large stash of cash, which they very neatly stuff into their pockets. What they don’t realize is that the cash belongs to the dangerous neighborhood drug dealer, and when they strike up a friendship with the outgoing Lainee (Nicole Carter) who—unbeknownst to them—has ties to both the cash and to the drug dealer, do things get particularly dicey for our young group of friends. That right there is basically the entire plot of the film. It’s very thin, and the conveniently perfect connection that Lainee has with the drug dealer feels entirely contrived. If the film involved just the plot points, it would be much shorter than its 84 minutes. What fills up those gaps are scenes of comedy that did not actually include a single heartfelt funny moment. The movie strains far too often when it tries to be funny. The dialogue contains bit after bit of pop culture and movie references without any payoff, and when Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Star Wars are mentioned, it automatically outdates itself, even for being a relatively new movie.
Oh, and there’s one thing I forgot to mention: the style of the film is that of a superhero movie. Yes, a superhero movie in which the superhero is an out of shape, borderline alcoholic who sports a consistent five o’clock shadow. Pork Rind discovers early on that he has the ability to…to…well, it’s not really clear exactly what his superpower is. He has the ability to sense some sort of ominous or potentially dangerous situation, whatever that means. To break it down, whenever he puts his hand up in a certain direction, he can sense something not right, like a built-in antenna that picks up TV channels you never want to watch. Yet again, it’s a very convenient piece of character development for Pork Rind to have; whenever he needs to get somewhere right away or save someone at the last minute, all he has to do is stick his hand in the air and he’ll magically know where to go and what to do. It’s never explained how he got this powerful gift; it just magically came to him. Maybe I should started sleeping in and drinking beers during the day—I wouldn’t mind having a superpower given to me out of the blue.
I will say that even with all of the criticisms that I have for Antihero, there was something that I did admire. Between certain sections of the film, there are hand-drawn inserts that detail a specific moment or image that comes from the following scene. I have never seen something like this before, and I was glad to see this spark of creativity. It made for an interesting effect when it came to the pacing—seeing something drawn heightened my anticipation to see how it would play out in the actual scene. But overall, while I give the film points for its attempt at creativity and for the filmmakers to just be able to finish the darn thing, I can’t deny that I found it to be a letdown. The performances were mannered and over the top, and the writing did not give us enough beyond the very basic outline of a plot. It was a movie that was an hour and a half, but felt like it should have been half an hour long. I hope to see Weindl and his team come back with another effort soon, because I think they have the inventiveness (and certainly the enthusiasm) to make something much, much better.
Final Grade: C-