Category Archives: Archived Movies

KILLERMAN

Producer: Craig Chapman, Myles Nestel and John Schwarz
Director: Malik Bader
Writer: Malik Bader
Stars: Liam Hemsworth, Emory Cohen, Zlatco Buric, Diane Guerrero, Nickola Shreli and Richie Ng
Studio: Blue Fox Entertainment

C-

The meaning of the title of Malik Bader’s nasty crime thriller isn’t revealed until just before the end. It’s not worth the wait. Nor is the rest of “Killerman” worth your time.

The plot revolves around a couple of low-level NYC money-launderers whose attempt to make some extra cash goes haywire, with bloody results. They’re Moe Diamond (Liam Hemsworth), a stoic, taciturn fellow with a pregnant girlfriend named Lola (Diane Guerrero), and his scruffy, nervous partner Skunk (Emory Cohen), who idolizes him. They make ends meet by helping Skunk’s uncle Perico (Zlatko Buric) turn his ill-gotten gains into nice cashier’s checks, with a few stops in between (including, at one point, gold ingots).

Perico seems pleased with their work, so he offers them a chance to feather their nests further by helping him morph a bundle associated with a real estate deal he’s arranged with some crooked politicians. He assigns the duo to launder no less than $2,000,000 a day over the following two weeks, which will bring them a lucrative commission, a cool million each.

They take charge of the first installment of cash, but Perico abruptly orders a delay, and they see no reason to let all that money sit idle without bringing in a return. So they quickly arrange to use it in a lucrative drug deal involving some Nigerians and a bag of cocaine, which can then be resold at a profit. Unfortunately, the deal turns out to be a set-up, ending in a staged interruption by a corrupt cop named Leo (Nickola Shreli) and his confederates. A sniper gives Moe and Skunk the chance to escape with both the loot and the drugs, but in the course of their getaway they’re involved in a car crash that leaves them both seriously injured—Moe more so, however, since it turns out he’s suffering not just from the obvious physical bruises but that old pulp standby, amnesia (curiously, though the malady doesn’t impede him overmuch, it does bring certain personal complications).

Despite their troubles, the guys have to make things right in order to survive. That won’t be easy, as Leon is hot on their trail (the drugs, you see, have to be returned to the police evidence room), and Perico is unlikely to be too happy with the misuse of his cash. Neither Bader’s script nor his direction manages to keep the goings-on completely clear, but Moe and Skunk have to fight their way through obstacle after obstacle en route to the retrieval of money and coke. Many bodies fall along the way, and there’s some brutal torture as well.

It’s difficult to care a whit about what happens to these two scummy guys, especially since neither Hemsworth nor Cohen makes his character remotely likable or interesting, though the former lends his movie-star presence and the latter his gift for playing squirrely to the proceedings. The supporting cast offers some bluster but little more—especially Buric, who bellows and scowls as Perico, and Shreli, who comes across like a bargain-basement Vin Diesel as the sadistic cop. Guerrero is totally wasted in a thankless role.

Technical credits are okay: Freddy Waff’s production design certainly captures the seediness of the setting (according to the card occurring before the final credits, the story chronologically occurs in 2014), and DP Ken Seng collaborates with Bader in shaping some decent action sequences. Editor Rick Grayson could have sharpened the pacing; there’s really no reason for a piece like this to push the two-hour limit. Whoever is responsible for choreographing the car crash did a good job, as did those who provided the fake blood for the grisly scenes of violence: quite a few people get bullets in the head, with pretty explosive visual results.

“Killerman” is a thoroughly mediocre slice of big-city criminality and shady doings, unredeemed by its two capable stars. On cable or a streaming service it might pass muster; in the theatre it’s eminently disposable.

THE HOUSE OF TOMORROW

Producer: Tarik Karam and Danielle Renfrew Behrens
Director: Peter Livolsi
Writer: Peter Livolsi
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Alex Wolff, Ellen Burstyn, Nick Offerman, Maude Apatow, Fred Armisen and Michaela Watkins
Studio: Shout! Studios

B-

An adolescent odd couple bond over punk rock in “The House of Tomorrow,” a pleasantly quirky adaptation of Peter Bognanni’s novel by first-time writer-director Peter Livolsi, which employs a fine cast to sidestep most of the afterschool-special pitfalls the material invites.

Asa Butterfield uses his skill at playing awkward and quizzical—which he earlier demonstrated in “A Brilliant Young Mind” (also known as “X+Y”) and “The Space Between Us”—as Sebastian Prendergast, a sheltered sixteen-year old who has lived most of his life in a geodesic dome outside Minneapolis with his grandmother Josephine (Ellen Burstyn), a disciple of Buckminster Fuller who uses their home to introduce visitors to her master’s ideas. Home schooled and as devoted to Fuller’s theories as his grandmother, Sebastian has had little contact with the outside world.

One day a group of youngsters from a Lutheran church, led by Alan Whitcomb (an amusingly laid-back Nick Offerman), tours the place. Alan’s son Jared (Alex Wolff) challenges Josephine about the reasonableness of Fuller’s belief in the possibility of human progress, and she suffers a minor stroke, leading Alan to accompany her and Sebastian to the hospital. Jared goes along, and he and Sebastian strike up a conversation, at one point sharing some punk rock on Jared’s phone. Sebastian is hooked, and Alan invites him to visit their house sometime.

Jared, you see, needs some friendship, because he’s rebelling against the structures imposed by a recent heart transplant—a regimen Alan is insistent on his following. Jared’s only joy is in practicing the guitar up in his room. When Sebastian shows up unannounced, he’s initially annoyed, but is soon won over by the shy kid’s newly-found passion for the music he loves. Before long Sebastian is strumming on the guitar as well, and the two will plan on starting a band, a scheme that involves Sebastian borrowing another instrument from the church without Alan knowing.

Naturally Sebastian’s absences from the dome cause Josephine to wonder about what he’s up to, and lead to a breach between them. Eventually Alan will take him in, but at the same time he’s concerned that allowing the boys—who now refer to themselves as “The Rash,” a decision that’s probably their most significant achievement toward becoming a real band—to perform at the church talent show will exhaust his son, who has already suffered a crisis after ceasing to take his medication. That leads to their decision to take drastic action to find a performance space.

This could easily be the stuff of a Nickelodeon cable movie, and in truth there are moments when it threatens to fall into that trap, most notably in the last reel, where things turn out well in a whole variety of unlikely ways. That it never goes completely off the rails is due largely to the charm exuded by Butterfield and Wolff, and the chemistry they have together. But Offerman’s concerned but somewhat clueless dad is a plus as well, and Maude Apatow adds a solid turn as Jared’s sister, who at first acts like a typically surly sibling but turns out to be much more supportive than she seems. Michaela Watkins contributes a poignant note in a virtual cameo as Alan’s heavy-drinking wife, who is living apart from the rest of the family.

And then there’s Burstyn, who delivers a nicely nuanced performance as a true Fuller believer. A brief black-and-white clip of her with him occurs at one point among the archival footage assembled as an educational tool for Josephine’s lectures (the narration is provided by Fred Armisen, employing a bland professorial voice); it’s no technical trick, since Burstyn actually knew and worked with him in earlier days. The picture, shot in Minnesota at a dome house in Dayton inspired by Fuller’s ideas (and partially funded by the Film Program of the Sloan Foundation, which promotes movies about scientific progress), boasts nice cinematography by Corey Walter. The other technical work is solid as well, and Rob Simonsen provides an agreeable score, complemented by plenty of punk numbers.

“The House of Tomorrow” may not break much new narrative ground, but it treads fairly familiar territory with a nicely light touch, adding some inventive tweaks along the way. And the excellent cast makes it go down easily.