Gentlemen Broncos

Director    Jared Hess
Starring    Michael Angarano, Jemaine Clement, Jennifer Coolidge, Sam Rockwell, Mike White, Halley Feiffer
Release    30 OCT (US) 30 APR (UK)    Certificate 12A
1 stars


9th May 2010

In which director, Jared Hess, reveals himself to be the one-trick, Wes Anderson obsessive we always feared he might be. (He also may be a racist, but I'll discuss that later in a carefully non-litigious manner.) Strap yourself in, kids, this is gonna get scathing.

Michael Angarano plays Benjamin, a charisma-lacking husk of a young man, home-schooled from a young age by his mother Jennifer Coolidge, who plays the role the only way she knows how; at full-speed eccentricity. At summer camp Benjamin meets his hero; science fiction author Ronald Chevalier, an arrogant, talentless hack who proceeds to steal the boy's own sci-fi manuscript and pass it off as his own work.

At the same time, Benjamin sells the rights of his manuscript to a local no-budget film company who end up interpreting his work in a risible and frankly hideous fashion. Although you'd be hard pressed to understand why the original manuscript deserves a better adaptation, it being a repetitive collection of childish, testicle-obsessed, fantasy clichés. 

Gentlemen Broncos was unceremoniously yanked from American cinemas early last year, but it's entirely plausible to believe that the Napoleon Dynamite director's third feature was just misunderstood. It all sounds good on paper, if a little too in debt to Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast Of Champions, but that's no bad thing. Perhaps it's a future modern classic in the making, like other overlooked comedy gems of the past? Well it's not: It's balls. I HATED this film.

[gallery]In fact it's not just hate; I also feel a crushing sense of malaise. It's during the watching of Gentlemen Broncos that I officially became completely and unequivocally bored of all supposedly indie films funded by major studios and featuring the odd mega-star cameo. I would now like to call a moratorium on all movies stuffed full of forced idiosyncrasies, wacky dislikeable characters, tasteless middle-American decor and self-consciously bizarre dialogue. This film has done an incredible thing in making me retroactively hate films I previously adored; Juno, Junebug, Little Miss Sunshine, Eagle Vs Shark, Thumbsucker and, yes, even Napoleon Dynamite. I hate you all now. Especially you, Miranda July.

Well I suppose I should back up my bucket of scorn with some cold-hard evidence. It's what a good reviewer would do. The protagonist, Benjamin, is an underwritten role, played with vapid gormlessness which barely figures as a performance. He comes from a long line of depressed male teens that we struggle to sympathise with, and who we've seen enough of in this type of film. 

The dialogue is purposefully weird, heavy with non-sequiturs and irony. It gets tiring, fast. The more accessible attempts at humour splash down heavily in the toilet area; vomiting while kissing, diarrhoeic snakes, dog-poo darts. There's not a single genuine laugh to be had.

The cinematography is flat but bright. Its intention is to draw your attention to the art direction, which although highly detailed, owes a huge debt to Wes Anderson, who in turn owes a huge debt to John Waters; you'd think it would collapse under the sheer weight of incest. The trailer invites you to witness 'another unique view of the world'. The irony is not lost.

Gentlemen Broncos contains some stunningly unoriginal musical cues, most of which you've heard before in better films, including the Kansas classic 'Carry On My Wayward Son'. Yes, we've seen Anchorman, thank you very much, now I would highly recommend against reminding us of that infinitely funnier film while the credits are still rolling. It also contains one of the single most boring and pointless montages ever committed to film.
The major problem with Gentlemen Broncos is that it relies heavily on how hilarious the audience finds cheap, home-made cinema. There's a lot of time devoted to what is essentially a one joke premise, and surely we've already had our fill of no-budget Star Wars remakes on YouTube. There really is only so much crappy amateur cinema you can sit through and be amused by. Ha ha ha, that actor's terrible, ho ho ho, that set is made of cardboard, hee hee hee, that CGI was made on an Atari... THAT'S ENOUGH NOW! The irony is that the bigger budgeted parallel story of Benjamin's manuscript that plays out in his imagination, re-enacting his beloved manuscript, isn't any better. In fact it's painfully embarrassing on all levels. Sam Rockwell, bow your head in shame.

And finally, the worst crime of all, perpetrated throughout the entire canon of Mr. Jared Hess; the use of ethnic actors to play grotesque, feckless stereotypes that are purely there for us to be either amused or horrified by. This is not cool. Not cool at all. Sure, Pedro was funny, but at what cost to the Hispanic community? Maybe I'm being a little too liberal minded for my own good, but seriously, if you see Gentlemen Broncos please question why the character of Lonnie Donaho has been included. Mexicans should definitely boycott all future Hess movies. If only they weren't so lazy.
There is one saving grace. And it is a major one: Flight Of The Conchords' Jermaine Clement gives a focused, studied and brilliantly restrained performance as sci-fi author Ronald Chevalier. He's an utter pleasure to watch, from his unbelievable Michael York mimicking accent to his blue-tooth headset and Native American clothing. His role screams 'please build the whole film around me' and how I wish the director had. 

I'm finished. You can relax, I can relax. We can all go about our daily lives now. However, do not be complacent; be constantly aware that at any time of day you could accidentally see this movie. I know it sounds ridiculous and rather time consuming on your part, but people, you have to be vigilant. After all, the price of everlasting peace is eternal vigilance. 

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