Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Movie Review: Unfinished Business (2015)

I’ve seen my fair share of vacant cinemas before; back when I first started this compulsion, and had a lot more time on my hands, I’d be watching films whenever I could… even when other people weren’t. This would usually mean that I’d get maybe a couple of others in the cinema with me on occasion. This time, however, was a first: I was literally the only person in that theatre. Now, normally this would be ideal, because it means that if the film is particularly rancid than I could just do my own RiffTrax to keep my sanity in check… what little of it there is left. Unfortunately, this tactic doesn’t work so well when you’re going to see a comedy, the only steadfastly riff-proof genre out there (not World War II documentaries fall into this category). Take this into consideration along with the fact that today’s film is starring the still-present Vince Vaughn for reasons that entirely escape me, and the bar for this is already set pretty low. Time to see if this can spring past it or dig itself even deeper: This is Unfinished Business.

The plot: Businessman Dan (Vince Vaughn), tired of being unappreciated at work, quits and starts his own small company with Tim (Tom Wilkinson) and Mike (Dave Franco). To seal the deal that could save their finances and their business, the three travel to Europe only to discover that Dan’s former boss Chuck (Sienna Miller) is also trying to broker a deal. As Dan struggles to convince Jim (James Marsden) and Bill (Nick Frost) to side with him over her, him and his colleagues are taken through one hell of a ‘business’ trip.

The cast here is a heady mixture of awkwardly bad and awkwardly good. Vince Vaughn is the same as he was last I checked with The Internship; loud-mouthed and bland, although he isn’t all that annoying. Sienna Miller is a footnote, despite being the film’s antagonist; she has very little presence on screen aside from general bitchiness and her inevitable “I’ve been bested” moment is… non-existent. She plays it off like it doesn’t even bother her, although I’m not sure whether the limp acting or the limp writing is to blame here. Then again, it could be both. But by far, the worst offender here is Dave Franco, who couldn’t any more annoying even if he was blowing a vuvuzela right into the boom mic in every scene. He is, I’m guessing, written to have a certain child-like innocence because of his age, but what we actually get from the acting and writing is the most literal interpretation of ‘man-child’ that I’ve ever seen. I feel the urge to stoop down and use the R word to describe him, but then again I don’t want to offend people with actual mental problems by comparing them to this guy.

Thankfully, we have two very capable actors who help pick the slack a bit. Tom Wilkinson, who ever since seeing Selma I keep noticing in movies recently, acts as a very efficient straight man to combat Franco’s derp incarnate and Vaughn’s mediocrity and delivers his lines very well. He even manages to make a 50 Shades of Grey joke funny; that’s how much he gives for this role. The other high point in the cast list is Edgar Wright regular Nick Frost, whose mere presence in this film nets it a 5% increase in quality. While he does end up as the butt (or rather the dick) of a pretty stupid gay joke, if that scene even qualified as a joke, but the man’s comedic timing is as good as ever even if the script heavily lets him down. Hell, he even manages to wring a few drops of pathos out of his scenes; a major feat, considering what typically qualifies for pathos in this thing.

This might be one of the dullest and most meandering plots I’ve seen in a comedy, to the point where I’m not even sure if it qualifies as such. It pretty much amounts to a series of short occurrences that serve no other purpose to be a cog to further the film’s plot, which would be fine if said occurrences were in any funny but for the most… wow, this reaches new heights of irritating and a lot of it rests on how aggravating Mike is. There’s a difference between portraying a childish nature and show a grown-ass human being asking about the wheelbarrow position over and over and over again, along with being the ‘reindeer man’. Not to say that the other characters get all that much to work with, either. Vaughn mostly gets saddled with weak sexual innuendo, usually to do with the handshake that confirms the deal, as well as a painfully laughless exchange between him and Sienna about him wearing yoga pants. The scene goes on for so long that you can almost hear the director sighing behind the camera, just waiting to yell “Cut!” at the top of his lungs. Or at least, if Ken Scott has any sense, that’s what he should have been doing.

Then we get into the attempts made throughout to tug at the heartstrings of the audience, and it is here that I have to tip my hand a little. Vaughn’s The Internship, while overall being pretty damn awful, managed an ending that somehow won me over ever so slightly. Maybe it was out of desperation because the rest of it was as bad as it was, but I walked away from it more pleasantly than I thought I would have purely on the strength of that ending. Do we get anything like that this time around? … Kind of. Honestly, the only character whose happy ending I gave two damns about was Tim, which will happen when he’s the only main who is in any way watchable. Dan’s ending is built up from various drive-by scenes involving his children having trouble at school that is pretty much dropped with a shrug by film’s end, and Mike… doesn’t really get a resolution, although I doubt any ending with him would have been worth it.


All in all, it’s a sloshy bucket of horse manure with a couple of silver nuggets submerged in it. The characters range from good to outright infuriating, the acting is bare bones save for Wilkinson and Frost, the comedy doesn’t even register about 99% of the time and the music choices are extremely haphazard, sticking to either 70’s cop show or 70’s porno soundtracks that never fit with the action on screen. But, with all that said, the only real lasting effect this film has is making me anxious about how the hell Franco is going to play Greg Sestero in the upcoming film adaptation of The Disaster Artist. It’s better than The Second Best Word Salad as the writing isn’t as noticeably awful, but it ranks lower than The Quarantine Hauntings, which is at least capable of getting bigger laughs than this one did.

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