Friday, February 15, 2013

The Cinema File #114: "Strike (AKA 7-10 Split)" Review

I don't normally review movies as old as this, though I do plan to have a regular section for older reviews at some point. The reason I'm doing one now is because I finally managed to track down a movie I've wanted to see ever since I first started this blog last year. One of my favorite movies of 2012 was FDR: American Badass, written and directed by Ross Patterson, and I liked it so much that it convinced me to check out one of his other movies on Netflix, Poolboy: Drowning Out The Fury, which wasn't quite as good, but still highly enjoyable. My main criticism of both films is that Patterson's complete lack of a filter sometimes leads him to go too far trying to hit that crudely funny sweet spot, and sometimes forgets the funny part, so when I noticed there was one movie on his IMDB page that he wrote, but didn't direct, I wondered if it might be a situation where his humor would be channeled more efficiently. Unfortunately, Strike, also known as 7-10 Split, is an all around disappointment, failing in every way to live up to this writer's more recent work.

Strike follows Patterson as an out of work actor/pizza delivery boy/amateur bowler who lives with the constant shame of being an actor/something else instead of just a successful actor. When his agent drops him and he's fired from the pizza place on the same day, he's forced to make ends meet on the Pro Bowling Circuit, donning an outlandish 70's era persona and becoming an instant bad boy celebrity. Its obvious right away that compared to his later films, this is clearly designed to be a more mainstream effort. He plays a supposedly charming everyman with a girlfriend played by Tara Reid and a wacky best friend, and its all about learning to be yourself and know who your friends are when your dreams come true and the good life isn't what you thought it would be. It's basically every rags to riches comedy you've ever seen, except with bowling this time, and I can't quite tell if I'm supposed to find the idea of bowling becoming a popular televised sport funny, or if that would be giving the makers of this movie too much credit.

The film presents multiple opportunities for genuine laughs, but seems to go out of its way to drain as much humor out of these situations as possible. We start out in a pizza place run by an Oscar obsessed former actor where you get two dollars off if you give a thirty second acceptance speech upon delivery, and so of course they do a montage of customers doing parodies of Oscar speeches, but its like they aren't even trying to be funny. We then get another montage of weirdly specific bowling leagues including old people, safety obsessed bowlers, and swingers, and again the set up is there, but there's no follow through. By the time we get to the pro-bowling segment, it picks up a little with Vinnie Jones as a drunken English brawler and more notably Human Giant's Rob Huebel as a recurring foil pining for the bygone days of professionalism in professional bowling, but apart from a last minute introduction of a Matador, a midget, and a mariachi band, it never rises to the level of laugh out loud ridiculousness that the other Patterson films I've seen seem to reach so easily. The only real highlights I can point to are Huebel's escalating insanity and John DiMaggio in a rare live action role as the announcer, both of whom I would guess ad-libbed most of their lines.

Patterson isn't actually that bad as a leading man. He's charismatic enough and slips into a kind of poor man's Ryan Reynolds mold, with slightly less douchy-ness about him. I enjoyed the chemistry between the main trio (yes, even Tara Reid, who I've never outright loved, but never thought was nearly as bad as most people do), and at no point was I ever bored or annoyed, even if I wasn't laughing a whole lot. If you've ever seen any of the recent straight to DVD National Lampoon movies, the ones that aren't Animal House or Van Wilder and seem to exist to milk some money out of American Pie fans with sexy women on the covers, this movie is what I imagine most of those are, having never actually seen one myself. It isn't The Master bad, but I can't quite recommend it either, not that you're necessarily going to find this readily available at this point anyway. If you saw FDR and or Poolboy and thought it would be worth it to track down some of the same writer's earlier work, trust me, its not.

IMDB now lists one of Patterson's next films as Hellen Keller Vs. Nightwolves, reuniting him with Barry motherfucking Bostwick once again, so it doesn't look like he's losing any speed after his last two successful efforts, and based on the trend that I've experienced in reverse, he just seems to be getting better and better. Here's hoping he gets more insane, not less, because if Strike is any indication, moderation and a mainstream sensibility are not his friends.

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