Root of the Problem


It’s definitely not hammer time…

(2019) Faith Comedy (VisionSergio Di Zio, Claire Rankin, Chantal Perron, Dwight Layne, Jason Therrien, Leslie Benn, Pete Seadon, Dawn Nagazina, Ty Loupelle, Anna-Marie Frances Lea, Wrama Willis, D’Arcy Browning, Stephane Legault, Brad Pajot, Brad Kimmel, Gordon Andersen, Roise Muldoon, Marnie Madden. Directed by Scott Corban Sikma

 

They say that money is the root of all evil (and one glance at how out-of-control capitalism has affected this country makes it hard to argue the point), although there are those who will say that only people who have never had money feel that way.

Paul Campbell (Di Zio) is a hard-working realtor who believes in turning over properties quickly; the more he sells, the more he makes. The trouble is, that he never seems to be able to make quite enough and his family – wife Grace (Rankin), daughter Kari (Benn) and son Landon (Loupelle) – has gotten used to him not being around when they need him. Paul has become money-obsessed, tight-fisted to the point where his miserliness has become a family joke.

His best friend Jack Mitchel (Therrien) is trying to sell the factory that plunged the town into depression when it went out of business. Jack kind of takes Paul’s abrasive self-confidence in stride, although Paul’s money issues are beginning to wear out their welcome. As far as Paul is concerned, though, there is hope on the horizon – Grace has a rich uncle who was devoted to Grace (and vice versa). Certainly, when the news comes that Uncle Joe has passed on, the news is met with mixed emotions by Paul – he’s sad for his wife, but there’s some relief that their financial difficulties will disappear once the will is read.

People will shock you, though – when the reading of the will takes place, beloved Uncle Joe has left all his cash to charity and left Grace and Paul with just a potted plant. Paul is understandably disappointed, bed ut that disappointment is short-lived – it turns out that money does grow on trees, after all, and the plant that dear old Uncle Joe left them had one. Suddenly, Paul has more money than he knows what to do with.

He chooses not to tell anybody about the new windfall, and goes on a spending spree for his own stuff – like a riding lawnmower and a Porsche. This leads to a rift between Paul and Grace, who isn’t aware of where the money is coming from – and Paul is spending it like it’s going out of style, which also attracts the notice of a police detective (Perron) which further complicates Paul’s life. It is only when a crisis point is reached that he begins to appreciate the family he has neglected and begins to see that money can’t buy everything.

The film is classified as faith-based but while scripture is discussed and church contributions make up a good chunk of the film, you never feel like you’re watching a cinematic sermon, so kudos to Sikma for that. But there are a few flaws here.

Paul is almost loathsome, although there are flashes of a decent person underneath from time to time – although those times are few and far between until the excrement hits the fan, so to speak. Di Zio does a pretty decent job in the lead role, but his character is almost cartoonish at times and that detracts from the message. You can’t take the movie seriously if you don’t take Paul seriously. You wonder why anyone would choose to be his friend, let alone married to him.

The concept is a good one, although it could have been handled a little better. Sikma goes for a kind of sitcom feel here, and you may end up wondering where the laugh track went while you’re watching this. This is most apparent in the score by Beau Shiminsky which is generic to the point that it sounds like you’ve heard it on Must-See TV back in the day.

Again, I liked the idea behind the movie but wish it had a movie that was deserving of the concept around it. Maybe if the director had gone a little bit more serious and a little less sitcom this might have won me over, but as it is I can only give it the mildest of recommendations.

REASONS TO SEE: The concept is imaginative.
REASONS TO AVOID: Has all the worst qualities of a sitcom.
FAMILY VALUES: Suitable for all audiences.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The real Paige was forced to retire from the ring in 2018 due to a neck injury.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft, Vimeo, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/16/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: A Thousand Words
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
The Tobacconist

Diablo


Scott Eastwood is smoking hot.

Scott Eastwood is smoking hot.

(2015) Western (Orion/Momentum) Scott Eastwood, Walton Goggins, Camilla Belle, Samuel Marty, Danny Glover, Adam Beach, Roberto Franco, Diego Diablo Del Mar, Nesta Cooper, William Belleau, Morris Birdyellowhead, Tzi Ma, Greg Lawson, Yaniv Bercowitz, Rohan Campbell, Joaquim De Almeida, José Zuñiga. Directed by Lawrence Roeck

There isn’t anything a man won’t do when one of his loved ones are threatened. He’ll find them if he has to go to the ends of the earth to do it. He’ll take on any odds; do whatever it takes to bring them home safe and sound, even if it means doing things that may damn his soul.

Jackson (Eastwood) emerges from a burning home and barn to discover that his wife Alexsandra (Belle) has been taken by a group of desperadoes who speak Spanish. Once he rescues his horse from the barn, he takes off through the wilderness to find her. While in the mountains he meets up with Ezra (Goggins), an outlaw who takes great pleasure in killing indiscriminately. He also has an encounter with Ishani, a young Native (Marty) who fires a couple of arrows at him, but when Jackson realizes he’s just a boy spares his life.

The trail is hard and with the relentless Ezra stalking him, Jackson eventually ends up injured and cared for by Ishani’s tribe particularly his father Nakoma (Beach). However, not everyone in the tribe thinks that Jackson is necessarily the good man he seems to be and it is urged that he be given peyote and put into the sweat lodge. There, Jackson has a vision of his younger brother with whom he went to the Civil War to seven years earlier and it certainly seems that Jackson may have a few skeletons in his closet after all.

There are elements of classic Westerns in this movie, particularly in the first two thirds of it although there are elements of the Westerns of Peckinpah and Leone as well. I think the movie is going for an overall gritty feel, which isn’t a bad thing but it feels like Roeck is forcing it a little bit. There is lots of violence (some of it gruesome) and some pretty rough customers here traveling the byways of the West (mostly filmed in beautiful Alberta). Veteran cinematographer Dean Cundey outdoes himself here, giving us beautiful Rocky Mountain vistas that are absolutely dazzling, truly one of the highlights of the movie.

Goggins, who has been getting more high profile roles lately, does sterling work as the amoral Ezra. The costume helps a lot as he looks a bit like an undertaker but there is a cheerful malevolence to him that is scarier than a Snidely Whiplash type of villain. He is becoming quite a capable character actor; while the jury is out on whether he has lead role screen presence, I think it’s quite likely we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the near future. Eastwood’s career is also picking up; he has some high profile features on the horizon, but here although his physical resemblance to his father is significant, his screen presence isn’t as developed as his old man’s.

The movie has a serious drawback and it involves the plot twist. It’s not a bad one – don’t get me wrong on that point – but they reveal it way too early and it changes the entire nature of the movie. I can kind of see why they did it that way, but frankly it doesn’t work. It’s the kind of thing that would have best been revealed during the climactic scene.

Westerns have been making something of a comeback lately; there have been some very high quality ones that have been released in the last few months, but this isn’t one of them. That’s too bad because it has some very good individual elements, but it doesn’t add up to a cohesive whole. There’s enough here to make it worth a look, particularly for those who love Westerns and those who love Clint Eastwood in particular, but even those worthies may be well-advised to play one of Clint’s classic on the home video player instead.

REASONS TO GO: Gorgeous cinematography. Goggins makes a malevolent villain.
REASONS TO STAY: The twist is revealed too early. Tries too hard to be gritty.
FAMILY VALUES: Plenty of violence, most of it in the style of the Old West, and some brief profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Eastwood has purposely avoided Westerns to avoid comparisons to his father even though he receives by his count more than 50 scripts every month; this is the first one he has actually agreed to do.
BEYOND THE THEATER: iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, M-Go
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/2/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 18% positive reviews. Metacritic: 35/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Pale Rider
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT: The 5th Wave