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aka Big Guns

D: Chris McDonnell / 81m

Cast: Chris McDonnell, Amanda Conlon, Peter Breitmayer, Sanjay Malhotra, Mo Collins, Danny Trejo, Brandon Motherway

To his colleagues on the Force, McDick (McDonnell) is the worst cop ever. Lazy, and then lazier still, and with no sense of civic responsibility, or any awareness of how inappropriate his behaviour is, McDick is the non-thinking idiot’s policeman. When his partner is killed in an apparent domestic disturbance call, McDick’s boss, Captain Donkowski (Breitmayer), uses it as an opportunity to have him kicked off the Force. Setting up as a privaye eye, McDick proves to be just as bad as a private investigator as he was as a cop. But soon he finds himself the target of various assassination attempts, all of them organised by local crime boss, Molten Lava (Collins). With the help of his secretary, Melanie (Conlon), his son Douglas (Motherway), and dubiously legit lawyer, Oscar (Trejo), McDick sets out to discover just what are Molten Lava’s motives for wanting him dead. Things don’t work out as well as he’d hoped though, as he soon finds himself framed for murder, still being targeted on Molten Lava’s behalf, and desperately needing a plan that will keep him safe and in the clear…

They say that comedy is a serious business, and that it’s the most difficult genre to pull off. The first feature of writer/director Chris McDonnell, McDick is not entirely successful in its comedic aims, but there’s more than enough humour that does work as to make watching the movie a mostly enjoyable experience even if it’s pleasantly goofy one minute, and then a little too eager the next. Much of the movie depends on McDonnell’s ability to make McDick an insufferable yet sympathetic asshole, someone you can’t help but root for, even though if you saw him coming down the street, you’d cross to the other side to avoid him. McDick is a classic movie idiot, lacking in self-awareness, wildly inappropriate around just about everybody, stupid as a matter of course, and – just in case you haven’t got it by now – as dumb as a box of spanners. Thankfully, McDonnell makes his lead character’s behaviour more appealing than appalling, and McDick’s laissez-faire attitude soon gives way to a more serious determination to be more productive, even proactive, but it’s tempered by the kind of irresponsibility that he just can’t help. McDick himself is funny, and McDonnell plays it mostly deadpan, often leaving the audience to work out whether he’s being serious or not, and this ambiguity helps matters tremendously.

However, McDick the character isn’t as well served by McDick the plot as he is by his creator. Too much of what happens does so at the whim of the script – by McDonnell and his brother, Michael – and not entirely in a logical fashion. A sub-plot involving Malhotra’s wannabe crime boss, Munpoon, slows down the movie and doesn’t go anywhere, odd moments such as Donkowski having a display wall of stuffed and mounted animal testicles take the viewer out of the movie’s cautious attempts at reality, and casting constraints mean that McDick can get into Lava’s home whenever he likes, and one unfortunate goon aside, he’s never challenged. Ultimately, the script takes too many opportunities to take a sideways step away from the main, muddled narrative (hands up if Lava’s reasons for wanting McDick dead ever make sense). But while the narrative is uneven and rarely convincing on its own terms, McDonnell does have a keen eye for static compositions, and on several occasions, DoP Scott Beardslee shows an equally keen understanding of the effectiveness of space and distance within the frame. A shame then that McDonnell couldn’t have beefed up his script to be more structured and less haphazard.

Rating: 5/10 – when it’s funny, McDick is really funny, and much of the movie’s humour stems from McDonnell’s performance in the title role; though it doesn’t always make sense, and is somewhat flatly directed by its star, the movie is definitely one that potential viewers should approach with caution, but if they’re willing to just go with it, they might find themselves having a good time (mostly).