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Masterminds

Year: 2016
Production Co: Broadway Video
Director: Jared Hess
Writer: Chris Bowman/Hubbel Palmer/Emily Spivey
Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones

This film is another example of the story behind the movie being much more interesting than anything on the screen. It was one of a handful of films caught up in the rights battle when courts froze the assets and IP of flashy production company Relativity over liquidity lawsuits, and even though it was on the release list of a major Australian distributor, it disappeared from view for about a year before finally surfacing on DVD.

And a result this bad can probably only be attributed to one of two things. One is that Relativity ran out of money/had all their money tied up midway through post production, and whoever took it over didn't have the time or money to assemble a decent edit. The second possibility is that it just sucks.

Based on the true story of the biggest ever armoured car robbery in American history, it's the tale of a smalltown redneck armoured car driver, David (Zach Galifianakis, playing the same role he does in every film apart from Birdman, only with longer hair), who's not sure about his impending marriage to screwball Christian Jandice (Kate McKinnon), and finds himself instantly smitten with Kelly (Kristen Wiig), the reckless, rebellious bombshell who starts working with him.

Kelly can see David has a good heart but, at the urging of her shady friend Steve (Owen Wilson), she still recruits him into Steve's scheme to have David rob his employer on their behalf.

Too in love with Kelly to refuse, David somehow pulls off the sting and hightails it to Mexico (according to the plan) to wait for Kelly to join him. But to Steve, there was never a plan to cut David in, so he leaves him south of the border with Mexican police one step behind while he and his trashy wife and kids live large.

When the heat gets too much, he even hires fearsome, sleazy professional killer Mike (Jason Sudeikis) to go to Mexico and shut David up permanently when the latter starts to smell a rat and demands his share.

In better hands and with a much better script it might have worked... or at least been funnier. Unfortunately this version of the movie doesn't know which story it cares about – you think it's a love story between David and Kelly, but it spends far too much time on the bizarre predilections of the hired killer, Steve and his family and posse and too many other elements that are too far removed from the premise.

Maybe the problem is that it adheres too closely to the real events it's based on, many of which didn't form a cohesive whole you could impart in a 90-minute movie.

All that still might have been a bit more forgivable if it had actually been funny, but (something it shares in common with a lot of other movies) every halfway decent joke is in the trailer. It also makes Masterminds look a lot more like a goofy comedy than it is, the tone veering in too many directions, director Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) not realising how unfunny most of them are.

Wiig plays it mostly straight but the script doesn't know what to do with Galifianakis, unsure whether he's buffoonish comic foil or the legitimate hero of the story. Like the studio that spawned it, it fell in a huge, confusing heap somewhere along the road.

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