Dir. David Gordon Green
Viewed: From the Balcony
Certainly my most anticipated movie of the summer. Ever since I read that David Gordon Green was going to make an action movie about a guy and his pot dealer, I was giddy. At the time Knocked Up was still happily buzzing in my head and the idea Seth Rogen was co-writer and he'd star with James Franco as the pot dealer was simply mind boggling. At this point Superbad hadn't even come out yet and the fact that Judd Apatow had tapped Greg Mottola for that one and David Fucking Gordon Green for this one was endlessly inspiring.
I'm happy to say that this is one of those rare occasions when my anticipation wasn't let down. Maybe it was the beers the amazing Somerville Theater serves its patrons, maybe it was the wonderfully drawn, relatable characters or maybe it was that organic touch that Green brings to everything he does -- the movie simply had me laughing the entire time. It does start out a little rocky, I'm not sure the Bill Hader 1950s intro properly sets the right tone for the movie, but the ship is righted pretty quickly and once we meet James Franco's pot dealer for the ages, the movie really does begin to sing.
James Franco's Saul is an singularly wonderous creation. While Seth Rogen can tend to play his characters a bit broad -- lets face it, the guy doesn't have the biggest of range -- Franco gives Saul so much soul and pathos that at times it is genuinely heartwarming. It's why I love off-beat genre movies like this so damn much. Anyone can tune into a old classic, something by a film festival darling, or a serious minded foreign flick and get that expected emotional punch. It's when that excitement comes from an action, horror or disregarded genre movie that really gets my mojo going. It's like they won one for the team and all us beleaguered cheerleaders get to do that ovation that simply so much sweeter since it doesn't come as often as we'd like it to.
Obligatory plot description: Guy witnesses murder by local drug kingpin who ties the witness back to Franco because of super weed Pineapple Express that he sold to Rogen. Guys have to go on the run. What honestly gets to me though is the truth to the Rogen-Franco relationship. Anyone who's bought weed knows about the hanging-out factor that you have to do with the dealer to buy the weed in a non-asshole way. Yes, it's been dealt with before in comedy (memorably in a Mr. Show skit where David had to hang out with the pharmacist to buy prescription weed) but to make it the relationship arc works surprisingly well and is even odds defyingly touching. Rogen just wants to buy his weed and be on his way, not deal with Franco showing off his entertainment system and talking about his Bubba, but I'll be damned if their eventual friendship in the story isn't earned twice over out of well paced characterization and the great chemistry the two actors have together.
Oh yeah, the movie happens to be a balls out action extravaganza too. Albeit a ramshackled one at that, but it is this unsophisticated brand of melee that makes it so much more enjoyable than another standard action movie. Punches hurt the guy making the fist, dustbusters are a viable weapon, guys feel sorry for making a hole in the wall with another guy's head. And that reminds me: This movie does feature on of the best, cringing, amazingly funny fight sequences committed to film in some time -- dare I say it made me recall a certain Roddy Piper movie in its hilarious extremes. For this 5 to 10 minutes of film I would gladly pay another 8 bucks to see this movie again.