‘Mr. Right’ Flirts With Wrong

by Warren Cantrell on April 8, 2016

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Minor Rock Fist Up]

Director Paco Cabezas’ new film Mr. Right is like the spoiled lovechild born from a 3-way between Bridesmaids, Hudson Hawk, and Boondock Saints. If that sounds wicked awesome, then you’ll probably love it; if that muddled description seems scattered and tonally inconsistent, then Mr. Right might not be right for you.

It stars Sam Rockwell as rogue assassin Francis, and Anna Kendrick as the recently broken-up Martha. Mr. Right follows the pair as they fall in love despite Francis constantly dodging something like three different hit squads, all of which operate with the skill, intelligence, and tact of your most incompetent Bond villains. The end result is a breezy, frequently funny, yet somewhat bizarre black comedy that desperately wants to be Grosse Point Blank, yet lives in a world too comic book-like to justify so lofty a comparison.

Tonally, Cabezas’ film sets itself up well, for it is clear from the get-go that Mr. Right is not aiming for a gritty, real-world aesthetic. Martha’s break-up in the opening minutes of the film border on cartoonish, as does the picture’s introduction of Francis as the dancing assassin (seriously, it’s a thing). Indeed, after Francis’ Gene Kelly-inspired murder spree, the audience is adequately prepared for the pitch and tenor of what is to follow. This is important, too, for the conceit of Mr. Right is that Francis is an assassin that has taken to murdering those that hire him, for as he explains, “murder is bad.” Likewise, the audience is supposed to buy into Martha’s near-instant capitulation to Francis’ charms, despite his refusal to tell her his name, and the frequent “jokes” he makes about his occupation as a professional killer.

Max Landis penned the script for Mr. Right, and he does a decent enough job justifying this quirkiness early on, for Martha’s jangled post-break-up state has her in a vulnerable place when Francis happens along. And as for Francis, a quick couple of lines fleshing out his back-story provide some level of believable justification for his eccentricities. Yet if the film and script are strongest when they prop up its leads and A-plot, they are weakest on the B-side. With the exception of Tim Roth as Hopper, Francis’ arch nemesis, the villains in Mr. Right radiate a ridiculousness that borders on absurd. Cabezas’ previous film, Rage, starred a wild-eyed Nicolas Cage, and one gets the sense that the director missed him on this one. There are only a handful of actors that can chew up and spit out the kind of ham-fisted dialogue Mr. Right shovels into the mouths of its villains, and again, with the exception of Roth, none worked on this picture.

This, along with the dance-fighting and improbable murder-romance, is enough to tip this whole endeavor over at times, yet it never completely capsizes the effort. The chemistry between Martha and Francis keeps the movie afloat, along with a scene-stealing performance from Katie Nehra as Sophie, Martha’s best friend. Sophie acts as a reality lighthouse of sorts for Mr. Right, as she is allowed to hit the pause button from time to time, and remind Martha, Francis, and the audience just how fucking bananas all of this is. It’s a thankless role, yet one that Nehra knocks out of the park.

At a quick 95 minutes, Mr. Right is light and charming enough to flit and flutter by without too much trouble, yet one gets the sense that so much effort was put into crafting the space surrounding its two quirky leads that the movie forgot to build the world around them.

Kendrick and Rockwell do a decent enough job carrying the water of the picture’s premise to keep it all interesting and entertaining, yet even they seem to struggle under the weight of the ludicrous madness that bogs down the final act.

Opening today, a person could do a lot worse than Mr. Right, yet as a writer and director, Landis and Cabezas could have also done a bit better.

“Obvious Child” is the debut novel of Warren Cantrell, a film and music critic based out of Seattle, Washington. Mr. Cantrell has covered the Sundance and Seattle International Film Festivals, and provides regular dispatches for Scene-Stealers and his own site, 10rant.com. Warren holds a B.A. and M.A. in History, and his hobbies include bourbon drinking, novel writing, and full-contact kickboxing. Mr. Cantrell is happily unmarried, and without any children, pets, or plants.

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