Studio: Dread Central Presents
Director: Adam Rifkin
Writer: Penn Jillette
Producer: Peter Adam Golden, Penn Jillette, Adam Rifkin
Stars: Penn Jillette, Missi Pyle, Hayes MacArthur, Lin Shaye, Teller, Marshall Bell, Gilbert Gottfried, Nestor Carbonell, Miles Dougal, Harry Hamlin
A disgruntled crowdfunder steals a film’s footage and kidnaps the star to create his own personalized cut of a crime thriller.
Ever contribute to a crowdfunding campaign only to see the final product turn into a major disappointment? So did Herbert Blount. Blount backed the crime thriller “Knocked Off” with beaucoup bucks, netting him the sweet perks of behind-the-scenes set access, the plum part of a speaking extra, and a dinner date with the object of his obsessive affection, actress Missi Pyle.
Unfortunately for Blount, the final film lacks two essential ingredients: much more screentime for Missi, and additional scenes featuring Herbert as her co-star. Blount takes it upon himself to succeed where actual director Adam Rifkin failed. After hijacking the film’s footage, and kidnapping Missi, Blount puts his filmmaking inexperience and digital FX freeware to good use by making a cut of “Knocked Off” that’s a masterpiece to him, a misery for Missi, and an eyesore to everyone else.
By extension, “Director’s Cut” becomes the meta-movie version of “Knocked Off,” complete with Hebert Blount’s Bonus Feature-style commentary as a primary piece of audio. Voiced and portrayed by entertainer Penn Jillette, Blount wittingly walks us through the weirdo thought process of a deluded wannabe director while unwittingly detailing the crimes committed to put his stamp on someone else’s work.
Being a movie on top of another movie gives “Director’s Cut” a unique frame for Hollywood satire. Whether purposefully orchestrated from the get-go or simply by necessity as the byproduct of a low budget, avenues are opened for clever ways of calling out shortcomings by roping them in as “just part of the show.” Smart money might bet that not every mistake Jillette/Blount makes mention of was written into the shooting script, but it doesn’t matter since the jokes fit either way.
Such setups have a tendency of growing long in the tooth however. One bit where Blount obliviously chomps on chips while asking us to pay attention to key dialogue goes well past “I get it” irony into overlong annoyance.
By the last half of the film, laughs engineered at the expense of Blount’s misguided moviemaking insight have an increasingly harder time tickling the funny bone. “Ave Maria” plays over a slow-motion symphony of bullets recreating the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre. Blunt dimly misinforms us, “this music was originally written for another movie.” Ha… heh… meh.
A much bigger ha-ha hurdle in front of “Director’s Cut” involves its problematic premise of Herbert Blount being unstably infatuated with Missi Pyle. Fondling Pyle’s panties and using her toothbrush after breaking into her hotel room occupy just the tip of the creepy iceberg. In the glacier sits the core conceit of incorporating stalking and kidnapping as springboards for comedic capers.
“Director’s Cut” arguably keeps its footing as firm as conceivably possible given this slope’s slipperiness. Jillette and Rifkin no doubt had nothing but good humor in mind, making it essential to take their dark comedy in the weirdly wacky spirit in which it was intended. But considering the post-MeToo climate in which the movie arrives, where freaks exploiting meet-and-greets to cop feels or worse are legitimate concerns for celebrities, there are teeth-clenching implications to the movie’s main punchline that can make the material uncomfortable.
Regardless of reception, “Director’s Cut” earns points for attempting something conceptually unconventional. It’s a bumpy road that doesn’t end at the neat and clean destination the creators were likely hoping for though. Seemingly handcuffed by small-scale scope limiting how gonzo its imagination can get, “Director’s Cut” comes up short in the entertainment department.
“Knocked Off” plays like a police procedural pastiche. It works in and of itself, with Lin Shaye as the stereotypically angry police captain exasperated by her stereotypically maverick detectives who predictably balk at partnering with a female FBI agent who predictably becomes romantically involved with one of them. Since “Knocked Off” doesn’t serve as a straight man, Blount’s campy cut-ins of a Hot Wheels car crash or horribly superimposed replacement of Harry Hamlin land only alternating jabs instead of knockout counterpunches.
Indie filmmaking crowdfunding offers a ripe basis for parody. Rehashing similar gags about behind-the-scenes brouhahas, poorly edited effects, and Blount’s idolization of Missi Pyle restricts “Director’s Cut” to mining just a fragment of that lode. Occasionally hitting solid speeds, yet often coasting on fumes that can become gratingly odorous, “Director’s Cut” plates an adequate appetizer instead of a hearty entrée when it comes to really roasting Kickstarter cinema culture with wicked wit.
Review Score: 60