Movie Reviews: 'Masterminds'
By Michael Kaye
You know what's really unfair? As The Film Avenger, I have a reputation for being overly kind to movies, or to put it bluntly, "Mike loves everything." I've been getting hate over that for a few years now, and each time it bothers me less and less. But what DOES bother me is when I have the unpopular opinion on a particular movie. For example, God forbid I say anything negative about one of director Jared Hess's previous movies Nacho Libre! That's why I was both excited and nervous at the same time for today's film Masterminds, which has been delayed for quite some time due to Relativity Media filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Here's the story. A guard at an armored car company in the Southern U.S. organizes one of the biggest bank heists in American history. Based on the October 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery.
I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I didn't hate this movie. I feel like it was oversold by my peers to be the "worst movie ever," or at least the worst of the year. But the bad news is that this movie is still not good. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the cast is great. Had it not been for these actors actually trying their best to ring something out of this material, this would have been a huge train wreck. A very smart, yet manipulative thing this movie does during the credits is that thing most bad comedies do where they show you the outtakes so that the audiences walks out with a smile on their face. It's basically a reassurance that no matter how bad the movie was, at least the cast had a fun time making it. That being said, there are two legitimately great performances in this. The first one is Leslie Jones as an FBI detective. She's really the only straight man in the entire movie, while everyone else was dumber than a sack of hammers. The other one was Jason Sudeikis as Mike McKinney, as assassin who's hired to take out David Ghantt, who just so happened to have a fake ID with his name.
The story itself is fascinating, and in the hands of a better director this could have been a genuinely great crime thriller with comedic elements. I was thinking about this on the drive home from the theater, and there were two directors that came to mind. One of them was Wes Anderson, and if I'm to be honest, I only thought about him because Owen Wilson played the main antagonist. I imagine if he took on this project, it would feel like a return to his Bottle Rocket roots, something that's a little more contemporary, yet still counts as a period piece. The other director, or directors would be the Coen Brothers. Think about Burn After Reading, then tell me these wouldn't be perfect to tell another story about idiots getting in way over their heads.
The last positive I have is for the soundtrack. Yeah, yeah, I know, but come on! When you have The Clash, Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds and James Roberson in the same movie, it makes whatever crap I'm watching just a little more tolerable.
Now for the fun part. I could waste time breaking this down into minor annoyances, but I'm just going to Falcon Punch the main reason why this movie doesn't work: It's trying WAY too hard to be funny.
This is very much the reason why for the longest time I've been so negative about most of Jarred Hess's work. The only movie of his that I genuinely loved, at least when it came out was Napoleon Dynamite. Seriously, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to that movie for being one of my first indie films/cult classics that I became aware of. That movie is really the only time I've seen Hess's awkward brand of humor work, and work very well. Nacho Libre, however, didn't quite work as well, but Jack Black did the best he could with the material.
I've noticed somewhat of a pattern with Hess and his later works, where he gets fairly seasoned comedians who are able to do most of the heavy lifting, while the writing kinda takes a back seat. But I'll give Hess some credit, while I'm not the biggest fan of his style of humor, at least I recognize that he has a signature style. Masterminds falls apart pretty easily because this is the first time where he's ONLY the director, and the people who are credited on the screenplay have dreck such as Middle School: The Worst Years and The Sasquatch Gang on their resumes. It's also probably important to note that Lorne Michaels of SNL fame is one of the producers, and I really hope he was secretly the one trying to sabotage this movie by delaying it, because this is almost as bad as some of SNL's worst seasons. And I feel bad about that because I want Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon to be breakout stars, maybe go beyond stupid comedies like this one and actually try their hands at a drama.
Man, I feel like I'm letting everyone down with this review. I didn't hate Masterminds enough to satisfy my trolls, nor did I love it enough to please Jared Hess fans. I just feel sorry for everyone involved, and I hope we can all forget about this mess of a movie in due time, except when Comedy Central puts it in constant circulation on cable.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen Masterminds, and if so what did you think? Also, what would you do to make this a better movie? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned as always for more awesome content coming your way!