JWR Articles: Film/DVD - The Notorious Newman Brothers (Director: Ryan Noel) - June 1, 2009
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The Notorious Newman Brothers

3.5 3.5
85 min.

Another pirate movie sets sail

Thank goodness for indie films. Like a certain long-lamented comedy show (er, hello there, Drew Carey) with a budget smaller than the Republican party’s collective IQ, a hand-held camera and loads of body-part/function humour (“cleft ass” conjures up an intriguing image), the zany artistic trust can go all-head full and produce a film where there’s lots of fun “but the points don’t matter.”

Shot in law-loving Hogtown (a.k.a. Toronto to our global readers), there could be no finer location to shoot the film-within-the-movie: it’s a no-holds barred “gangstermentary” on the Newman brothers—recently sprung from the slammer and delighted to share their sordid history, culinary skills and secrets of preparing for the next big deal (Tai Chi and jerking off—it’s a wonder such calmed minds could ever have slipped up and been brought to justice).

To add verisimilitude, Jason Butler plays Paulie Newman and brother Brett is Thunderclap Newman (how he acquired that moniker is too funny to spoil here but the term “thunder thighs” might provide a wee hint …).

At the centre of the whacky tale is 31-year-old, still-lives-with-Mom, Max (Ryan Noel, who also directs and shares the writing credit with the Butlers). Having made a few lewd shorts (“Barbie Goes Doggie for the Wizard,” being the latest addition), the wispy, fake-moustache-sporting lad decides to risk everything and cavort with known desperados.

Not surprisingly, there is more than one version of their past notoriety: Were the rubbed-oregano-loving siblings brutal murderers or carless DVD pirates? Only Lucky (Mike Mackenzie who sings with religious fervour) knows for sure, but even this snitch’s god can’t protect—much less save—his compromised soul.

Amid all of the guns, girls (the attempt to pick up a nubile customer—Melissa Beveridge—in the money-laundering video emporium brings a few yuks) and guffaws, the issue of Max’s sexuality often, er, rises to the surface but is never resolved to anyone’s satisfaction (still, the fogged-up window full-masted penis outline would certainly have been of interest to Freud).

Billed as “The film the Mafia wish never got made,” the three amigos display the artistic licence that all publicists employ to lure patrons to their product. The only hint of anything remotely Sicilian comes from the set dressing (e.g., Goodfellas poster) and scene-splitting cutaways to complementary one-liners from vrai criminals such as Al Capone.

However, there are some moments where the possibility of an extremely clever allegory threatens to lift the production into the realm of brilliantly creative (Mom unexpectedly bursting into the budding filmmaker’s room while he’s, er, “shooting,” knocks on the door of multilayered subliminality but never gets an encore).

No worries. The flick slips by with enough enjoyable scenes to make it worth a peek—so let’s hope the next installment from this talented crew (cross-reference below) delves a little deeper into the human experience even as the surface-jokes keep all party animals amused and entertained. JWR

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Director - Ryan Noel
Cinematography - Simon L. Baker
Editor - Ryan Noel
Original Music - Ryan Noel
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