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‘John Buttleman : Daredevil Stuntman’ (review)

Produced by Shereen Hariri, Kevin Baird
Maile Baird, Erik Lundmark
Written and Directed by Francis Stokes
Starring John Hawkes, Karen Black,
Dan Castellaneta, Ryan Alosio

 

I love film. I’ve been a movie buff for as long as I can remember. I can find something good in almost any film or a reason to watch. I even love the category of film, “So bad it’s good,” and will frequently get lost in a movie that’s truly awful but enjoyable as my wife shakes her head at me.

However there are some things about the movie business I will never understand. Sometimes it is just better to walk away than try to resurrect a project that has gone stale and friends, Harold Buttleman: Daredevil Stuntman is the definition of stale.

It was shot 15 years ago. It was released on YouTube for free 11 years ago and it has no business being released or shown now. It wasn’t good in 2003. It wasn’t good in 2007 and it isn’t good today.

Things get stuck on the shelf for a reason. People forget. Rights change hands. The need for content forces companies to reach into the literal bottom drawer to fill digital real estate or drive revenue. When executives are looking at profit and loss statements they should take a deep breath and realize that some things do not deserve to see the light of day.

This is one of them

I can understand how this movie got made originally, because on paper, it could easily look amusing. A blissfully unaware wanna be stunt man takes his shot at the big time while juggling friendships, family and romance. I saw this film described as a dark comedy, but realistically speaking, it’s not especially comedic and the story is just sad, not dark. The script is stiff, goes nowhere, and the performances match.

The one shining light in this film is John Hawkes, who knows how to act. He plays Harold Buttleman as well as he can, considering the terrible narrative he was saddled with. It’s really a good thing no one saw this movie until 2007 originally because his next role was Sol Starr on Deadwood in 2004 which was his coming out party as an actor. The pinnacle of his career was an Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone in 2011 and a Golden Globe in 2013 for The Sessions. I expect, if you were to ask him privately he would hope this sad, amateur effort stayed in whatever hole it was buried in originally.

Every character is written with almost the exact same obtuse voice. The story has a beginning, middle and end but there are no real layers. The characters are depth free. All the conflict is manufactured and when there might have been the possibility of a truly funny moment or engaging interaction the scenes and dialogue just fizzle out and we are forced back to the plodding middle where very little happens and what does is mostly boring.

Dan Castellaneta has a cameo as a has been stuntman that was really interesting. That character, aptly named, Human Cannonball, had the ability to save the movie. Castellaneta and Hawkes had some genuine chemistry and there was the subtext of a backstory for Castellaneta that could have been really funny and interesting had it been explored. Unfortunately it stalled and was abruptly cut off.

If you are a big John Hawkes fan you might like this movie. If you like Todd Solondz’ Happiness or Peter Berg’s Very Bad Things, you might find something remotely redeeming about this film. If not, my suggestion is a hard pass.

1 out of 5 stars.

John Buttleman: Daredevil Stuntman will be available
on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play Feb 2, 2018

 

 

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