Considering how bad most mainstream comedies are nowadays, most are forced to look to the indie section of the genre for enjoyment. Genuinely funny indie comedies like 500 Days of Summer, Lars and the Real Girl, Frances Ha, and even the recent wonderful creation that is Swiss Army Man blow out any blockbusters within the first ten minutes. That’s mean, I know. But trust me, the current state of the genre is pretty sad if you really think about it. If you don’t believe me, just look back at the big comedies that you may have seen this year—Ghostbusters, Ride Along 2, maybe even Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates—and tell me those don’t show reinforce how unfunny Hollywood has become. Well, I’ll table that for now. That long winded opinion of mine leads me to Mike Hermosa’s The Head Thieves.
Basically,everyone is at least somewhat curious about the idea of stealing money. You may not admit it outright, but the excitement of doing that is hidden inside each person somewhere. And even though that interesting idea is what The Head Thieves tries to explore, it fails in bringing anything new to it. The three air-headed Castillo brothers—Graham (Mickey Gooch, Jr.), Frankie (Dante Basco), and Duncan (Dion Basco)—develop a poorly thought plan to steal some money one day. Of course, things go wrong, and it’s not very long before the entire plan goes to pot.
The brothers live somewhere in the deep South, which allows for a cringeworthy parody of stereotypical accents of the region. And that’s only the beginning, folks. Instead of each brother having his own identifiable personality, all three are simply reduced to banal idiocies. Since that flaw is a frequent one in the genre, some have adapted by adding in some strong performances to reinforce those weak spots. But in The Head Thieves, no performance gave me anything except brief moments of giggles.
One aspect about the film that is refreshing is the simple plot. That doesn’t mean that I found the plot interesting, it just came as a nice change of pace after the plethora of colossal messes that I have seen time and time again this year. Regardless of genre, most films today feel the need to overly complicate things just so that it feels more epic. But thankfully, this film essentially surmounts to an even more dumbed down version of something like Raising Arizona.
But since it was constructed with such a basic concept, it must then rely on other elements to back it up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find many of those. There are a few laughs here and there, although most come from performance than from the script. I will admit that as juvenile as those few good jokes were, I did still find them funny. What’s sad is that those moments are few and far between.
One way that recent good comedies have been able to separate themselves from the rest is in direction. There are few directors working today that are as good at comedy as Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and the Coen Brothers (Hail, Caesar!). Even if the film itself is not that original, those filmmakers are somehow able to bring a technical side to it that helps to overshadow those potential skid marks. Hermosa, on the other hand, didn’t add his own touch to The Head Thieves that I could see. The direction is passable — but only just. One thing I do feel inclined to bring up is that there is a blatant rip off (not saying it wasn’t copied before) of This is the End when the Castillo brothers are looking down at a group of tools to use in their plan, and Hermosa uses a wannabe snappy montage showing their various items. While that is not a huge deal by itself, there are other substandard exploitations like that that he incorporates without adding in any of his own ideas to them. Therefore, most the comedy either feels derivative or flavorless.
This film isn’t a disaster; I’ll say that. It could have been a lot better — and it could have been a whole lot worse. It wouldn’t surprise me if some find the antics of the three brothers more entertaining than I did. It’s just that poorly executed films like this one make me weep for the sake of contemporary comedy. There’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel for the genre— we just have to reach it.
Film Review: ‘The Head Thieves’
Reviews on Oct. 19, 2016. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 84 MIN.
CREW: Director: Mike Hermosa. Screenplay: Mike Hermosa. Cinematography: Nathan Garofalos.
CAST: Johnny Devenanzio, Daniel Baldwin, Dante Basco, Mayra Leal