I’ve seen very few films that I actively despise. In fact, it’s limited to maybe one or two a year. I was hoping for a clean 2014, but The Angriest Man in Brooklyn has gone ahead and sullied it. It takes a pretty damn awful kind of movie for me to summon this level of vitriol, but this one’s got it all. I feel ill, a little bit dirty and a good deal dumber having sat through it. I had to – it’s my job – but you don’t, so save yourself some trauma and go see Blue Ruin again – or just stick your head in the oven for an hour and a half, Lord knows that’s better than the alternative.
Behind this hell-fire of cliches and poorly cued elevator music is the story of a career in unfortunate decline. I grew up watching Robin Williams’ films, and even now rubbish like Patch Adams and Hook still hold a soft place in my heart – but the amnesty is over now. 2009’s severely underrated World’s Greatest Dad hinted tantalizingly at a resurgence, but what little remained of my childhood-influenced optimism is gone. Robin Williams is officially dead to me.
Williams plays the irate man subtly hinted at in the title, and he’s not having a very good day. His car is hit by an Eastern European stereotype with “hilarious” consequences, but the real hammer-blow comes when Mila Kunis’ pill-popping, cat-loving, otherwise characterless doctor tells him he has a brain aneurysm. Via a set of equally “hilarious” misunderstandings, our high-as-a-kite doctor tells everyone’s favourite angry codger that he only has 90 minutes to live. What a [email protected]%king humdinger of a plot.
In spite of the incredibly simple, frequently plumbed setup of “Dying Man Living Against the Clock” (even The Simpsons did it), the plot’s structure is borderline despicable. That this film finished post-production around the same time Syd Field leapt from this mortal coil seems like less and less of a coincidence the more I think about it, and the great man is probably still reeling in his grave. What kind of a screenplay is this? How the hell did it get made? Why, oh why did some genuinely talented and famous people find themselves embroiled in such a pile of crap?
I can only assume there was blackmail involved. Gazing into Kunis’ eyes as she engages in “witty” rapport with a fellow hospital orderly, I see no trace of humanity, let alone enthusiasm. That she manages to mis-pronounce the word “people” in this scene, and that the director and his editors chose to leave it in, is testament to to just how invested the cast and crew were in the project. It looks like it was a total endurance test to make, and it’s even worse to watch.
Over the course of the entire movie I laughed once, and that was only at the pathetically amateurish green screening of a particular scene that may as well have fallen straight out of an Asylum production. And it’s these frequent, blatant technical slip-ups that will stay with me more than anything else. This was a film made by supposed professionals, so why do the sound and visuals clunk along in a manner so amateurish they would make a first year film student blush? It feels rushed, it feels like a draft – in fact, it probably is. I wouldn’t be bothered to finish this rubbish properly either.
It’s just so lazy. It’s just so damn lazy. There’s even a point around the hour mark where the screenwriter obviously intended for the film to end, only to realize that he’d need to tack on another 20 minutes for it be considered “feature” length. Either that or he just took to the script with no sense of structure or professionalism. Maybe it’s a combination of the two? Either way, I despise it.
The “comedy” here is a borderline moronic combination of the mawkish and the flat out awkward, with the whole cast very much aware how much of a dud the script is. Williams and Kunis seem to be sleepwalking through much of the film. Her character’s “chronic depression” boils down to her moaning about her cat, while his “uncontrollable rage” means he occasionally shouts and swears a bit. Maybe it’s solely the screenplay’s fault, maybe it was so awful and overstretched and long-winded that even a talented and relatively star-studded cast couldn’t make hide nor hair of it, or maybe we should just blame everyone involved for lazily churning out such by-the-numbers guff.
The more I watched it, the more I became convinced that The Angriest Man in Brooklyn was a film made by a person with utter contempt for the human race. Why else would they want to cause such suffering? How else would they be this out of touch with the terms “emotion” and “humor”?
It always stuns me that movies like this get made, but they do, and it’ll probably make a shed-load of money. As I watched one of my childhood icons dejectedly trudge through the worst film of the year thus far, my brain kept telling me to stop watching – to leave the room, catch a bus and go live somewhere far, far away where I could pretend that The Angriest Man in Brooklyn never existed. But I didn’t. I sat in morbid silence as this slow-motion car crash of a movie weaseled its amateurish, awful way into my brain and left me on the verge of a minor existential crisis. It wants to be a tale of redemption, but I certainly don’t feel redeemed, I just feel sick – really, really sick.