[This is a re-post of our Mr. Right review from the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. The film is in theaters and on VOD today.]
Mr. Right is the second of four movies written by Max Landis that will hit screens this year and while it’s got quite a bit in common with his last script American Ultra, this flick feels a little tighter and is a hell of a lot more fun. A big reason is tone. While American Ultra dipped in and out of darkness and lightness a little awkwardly, Mr. Right is a big candy-colored rush of entertainment from the first frame to the last, combining quirk comedy and hyper stylized violence with cartoonish glee. It’s almost as if something like Married To The Mob came along with explosions of John Woo action. Or maybe the movie is it’s own thing, just one that made up of elements of many different flicks you’ve seen and loved before.
Anna Kendrick stars as a girl going through a manic breakdown following a particularly sudden and awkward break up. She’s quirky ball of energy looking for anything to distract herself from the pain, whether it be frying a can of whipped cream or screaming at herself in the closet. She might be a little crazy beyond her current emotional rollercoaster or this could all be a case of bad timing. It’s hard to say, but either way she’s found the perfect rebound in Sam Rockwell. He’s another manic maniac, but one with whom she clicks so perfectly that it just might work out.
The only potential snag is that he’s also an assassin. He tells her about it right off the bat, she just assumes he’s joking (you know, “Hang on a second, I’ve got to kill a guy.” That sort of thing). But he’s not. He is a particularly kind-hearted assassin though. He likes to wear a red clown nose on the job and has taken to killing the clients who hire him to kill someone instead as a way of letting them know that murder is wrong (kind of a nice thought actually, however misplaced). He’s also remarkably skilled at his job, enough so that he can take out an entire SWAT team with ease and actually dance his way through the killing spree to increase the fun factor. Tim Roth plays a more grizzled assassin impersonating an FBI agent to bring Rockwell down and since it’s Tim Roth, he might actually have a chance.
It’s a pretty clever idea for a movie by Landis, combining meet-cute rom-com tropes with slapstick shootout action. Both genres are pitched at the same heightened level and fit together rather well thanks to the script’s twisted, movie-drunk wit. The romance is laced with far too much neuroses and weirdo behaviour to ever come off as corny, while the action is executed in such an over-the-top and even slapstick manner that it never stretches into the disturbing. So you get two great crowd-pleasing tastes that surprisingly taste great together and compliment each other rather than distracting from one and other. Spanish director Paco Cabezas plays it all out in big, bright colourful visuals. Costumes are all vibrant and rooted in charmingly tacky Americana like an 80s Jonathan Demme picture, while the action scenes take the idea of choreographing shootouts as dance sequences rather literally. Cabezas heightens every element of the movie to hit a joyful level of stylistic excess that suits Landis’ movie-movie writing style rather well.
Of course a movie like this could never work without the duo cast at the center and thankfully the filmmakers nailed that one perfectly as well. Anna Kendrick commits to the crazy end of her character’s spectrum from the start, while still remaining immensely likable a charming. She was a wise casting choice since her tiny frame makes her inevitable transition into action star in the second half feel unexpected, even though she clearly has the chops to pull it off. If anything, Sam Rockwell is even better. A deeply underrated character actor, Rockwell has always had it in him to be a manic Michael Keaton style leading man, he just never got the role to suit him. Well, this is it. Not only does it test the limits of his quirky charms and comedic chops, but also the guy gets to play out action scenes like musical numbers and nails the physicality with ease.
That headlining duo shares some pretty damn great chemistry and even though there are some nice supporting performances like Tim Roth’s exhausted nemesis and the RZA as a henchman with a heart of gold, Kendrick and Rockwell own the movie. It’s hard to take your eyes off them as they bounce between gently comedic romance and bloodily comedic action scenes. Mr. Right is ultimately a pretty fluffy movie that strives for nothing more than good old-fashioned cinematic entertainment, yet it does that job so damn well that it’s hard not to sit back and let a big stupid smile swell across your face. Generally speaking, the love stories in action movies can feel tacked on and tedious, in place only to expand test-screening quadrants. Mr. Right proves that needn’t be the case and hopefully it helps inject a little life back into the traditional action/comedy. The genre’s been sagging a bit as of late and it’d be nice to have it back.