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Robert Hull [Film Festival 04.28.12] comedy drama

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Revenge for Jolly! is a good idea wrapped up in a bad movie. The good bit comes because we all know that you can have as many shootouts as you like but the golden rule is ‘just don’t kill the dog’. This time out Harry’s (Brian Petsos) handbag-sized mutt bites the dust in the first reel, and so, like him we want vengeance. Fine.

The bad bit arrives because successful filmmaking is all about setting the right tone. And Revenge for Jolly! gets it all wrong. You want to root for Harry because his pet is now barking away in canine heaven but you run out of sympathy, fast, as the filmmakers cross over the line marked dark comedy and head into cold-blooded-killing-not-funny-gags territory.

It’s obvious what the intention is. Harry and his buddy Cecil (Oscar Isaac) fill their car up with guns and ammo and head off in search of the pet murderer. They will stop at nothing to find out the perp’s identity. Great banter will ensure, there will be stoner humour, dry-witted comedy, killer one-liners – plus there’s a bunch of Hollywood star names in for cameo turns (Elijah Wood, Kristen Wigg, Adam Brody, Ryan Phillippe).

The reality: the killings seem mindless, Harry and Cecil’s behaviour seems at odds with who they are, the jokes (for the most part) fall flat, and the killer one-liners couldn’t knock down an old, three-legged mule with the ‘flu, let alone bring the house down. As for the cameo turns, well, you know they’re OK. Actually, as cameos go, they’re alright. They just don’t add anything great.

The fault for the failure doesn’t lie in director Chadd Harbold’s visuals; there’s art and invention here amid the dimly-lit, dust-ridden offices and grubby hotel rooms. What’s to blame is the flatness in the delivery of the lines and a lack of momentum in the editing. We know where we are headed, but speeding up the journey from time to time would be better. We’re in cruise control for too long – and it’s boring.

It’s a common filmic concept to have good people forced into doing bad things. You know, we get it: life can be shitty. However, what matters in the movies is that you care about the character(s) righting those wrongs. Even if you don’t like them, there has to be an element of understanding as to their actions.

Revenge for Jolly! could have been a cracker, as it is, it’s ended up needing far more love and attention than ever Harry lavished on his beloved pooch. A right dog’s dinner of a movie.

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