I ran across the movie on cable recently and thought it deserved a little commentary from your humble correspondent.
Anna Kendrick plays Martha Agatha McKay, one of those little kids who ruins show & tell with the sort of out-of-control exuberance that has parents pumping their kids full of Ritalin and other ADHD/OCD drugs these days. Martha's all grow'd up now and living in New Orleans with her friend Sophie. Martha has some sort of degree in paleontology (possibly a PhD) but isn't doing anything with it. She's mostly just existing and stumbling through a series of disastrous relationships with douche-y guys.
Her latest break up results in a two day binge of drunken closet followed by a night of over the top bar behavior and yet another disaster at Sophie's pet boarding establishment. Wandering back to their apartment, Martha, wearing her trademarked quirky hip outfit (see the movie poster above), is spotted by Mr. Right, real name Francis Munch played by Sam Rockwell.
Francis is yet another in a long line of James Bond/Bruce Lee super assassin types cranked out by the super secret...don't talk about it...hush hush CIA Ultra program that seems to be in every movie anymore. Max Landis wrote this screenplay about the same time he wrote American Ultra, another movie about a James Bond/Bruce Lee assassin type from the Ultra program. So either little Maxie has no imagination or he has a real issue with a CIA program that was shut down by Presidential Order in the early seventies.
Anyway, Francis (he hates his real name by the way) has had an epiphany of sorts, either a crisis of conscience or maybe because his partner turned on him and dropped a building on him while they were in Serbia. Whatever the cause, Francis now thinks that murder is wrong, but his reputation as a top flight assassin won't go away. . . people keep hiring him. So he does the next best thing -- he finds those who hire him and kills them instead. It sort of makes sense if you look at it just right.
Francis is immediately smitten with Martha and they begin a quirky cute courtship over the next couple of days. They finally seal the deal with one another over a one-of-a-kind sort of seduction that I won't ruin for you here, but it involves kitchen knives and probably not in the way you're thinking.
Martha and Francis' burgeoning relationship is in trouble of course from a variety of sources. Francis is being hunted by his former partner Ed Hopper, played by the wonderful Tim Roth, affecting a Brit's interpretation of a soft Georgia drawl. Hopper has been tasked by the CIA to kill Francis since no one seems to be able to capture him. There's also a mercenary, who is the lone survivor from a failed assault on Francis in the movie's title sequence, stalking him. And a comically inept wanna-be gangster kingpin who is trying to get his older brother to hire Francis to kill someone, hoping that Mr. Right's reverse hitman ethos will get Francis to kill the older brother and allow the younger brother to take over the gang.
Got all that?
It's not actually all that hard to follow whilst watching the movie. Director Paco Cabezas (Paul Head . . . really?!) does a nice job of interlacing the various narratives to further the plot seamlessly.
The movie is mostly cast with actors I've never heard of before. Other than the three above, two faces I do recognize are Anson Mount who plays older (gangster) brother Richie, working a fun anger management shtick, and RZA, taking a break from playing in mystical kung fu movies as a hired thug for the gang. Martha's roommate Sophie is played by Katie Nehra, unknown to me but cute in a scrawny thin sort of way, and seems to have gotten the role solely for her ability to yell What the f*ck! in various situations.
But it's the performances, particularly Kendrick's, that almost make this movie magical. Anna Kendrick has been working hard this last year or so to position herself as the heir apparent to Zooey Deschanel's quirky "it" girl/sexy in a safe way title. And had this movie been hitting on all cylinders, this might have done the trick. The interactions between Kendrick and Rockwell, in the quiet moments, are almost perfect. Their stream of consciousness/non sequitur dialog is endearing and seems natural. Most probably due to Rockwell, as he wears that sort of role effortlessly. The writers also managed to work his old school soft-shoe dancing style into his fighting techniques, which was a clever conceit in my humble opinion.
The problems mostly come from when Kendrick isn't interacting with Rockwell. She dials up the manic to eleven and it comes off as too forced. Perhaps the director should have let Rockwell help with the directing or even just work with Anna more directly as his scenes, when he's doing the hitman thing, show how easily that persona can be maintained in various situations.
All in all, I like this movie enough that it fits easily in my default movie list. A little more nuance in the performance of Kendrick and this might have been a home run for her. As is, it's more like a decently hit line drive that took a crazy hop and went over the fence for a ground rule double. How's that for metaphor? Heh.
Be warned -- this is an R rated film, so lots of killing and blood and bad language. No nudity of course, Kendrick still struggles with just how sexy she wants to be (that's a topic for another post). And we are talking about a movie about an assassin here, so there are moral questions in play. But it's only a movie, it's okay to suspend disbelief for 90+ minutes and have some fun.
Did you find this review helpful? Check out my other reviews for my thoughts on the flicks and the occasional gallery of hotness that accompanies them:
And speaking of galleries of hotness -- here's some pics of Anna Kendrick trying to look sexy while trying not to be too sexy, including a shot from her Playboy pictorial that shows just how sad that publication has become: