Moonwalkers (2015): Unloved and Misunderstood (Review)

Rupert Grint, Robert Sheehan and Ron Perlman.

For a film almost universally slammed by critics the world over, “Moonwalkers” is surprisingly fun, if one takes the film as black comedy versus the straight up kind. Unloved and misunderstood, this “inspired by true conspiracy theories” movie may be an oddity, to be sure, but it is great fun to watch.

Rupert Grint struggling to find life after Harry Potter does a pretty fair job in this quirky French/Belgian production.  Working with  Ron Perlman and  Robert Sheehan (who totally rocked as the Irish lad who could not die in E4’s “Misfits“) Grint manages to bring this psychedelic  black comedy to life.

Set in 1969, “Moonwalkers”  is directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet (it is his first feature length film) and is written by Dean Craig. Perlman is the mentally damaged CIA agent Kidman, Grint is unsuccessful band manager Jonny and Sheehan is junkie/actor Leon. Kidman is sent to London, with  a briefcase full of money,  to hunt down Stanley Kubrick to film a fake space landing in case the Apollo 11 mission fails. 

Jonny is mistaken for Kubrick’s agent and the band manager convinces Kidman that he can arrange a meet with the director and he asks Leon to impersonate Kubrick. They convince Kidman to fork over the cash but it is then stolen by the  loan shark  “Ironmonger Dawson” (played by the superlative  Scottish character actor James Cosmo) who Jonny owes money to. 

The entire film is a combination love letter to Kubrick and a black comedy of errors. Perlman’s character is clearly suffering from PTSD and yet he can still take out multiple “enemies” with alarming ease.

Take, for example, the scene in the pub toilet.  Kidman is outnumbered and, in terms of size, “out-gunned.”  The CIA agent never even pauses when taking down the thugs in the men’s room. The entire fight is set against the light and lilting music of Gioachino Rossini’s “The Thieving Magpie” it is the blackest of comedic  moments. 

The scene is  keeping to  the Kubrick homage , that is  apparent throughout the film. The Men’s Room scene is also very evocative of “A Clockwork Orange” where Alex beats his Droogs to the sounds of Rossini as well. If it were not apparent that the filmmakers wanted to salute Kubrick before, this scene would make it abundantly  clear.

“Moonwalkers” is set up to have the CIA  hire the moon  landing done and then have all the participants murdered to keep the whole thing secret.  This dark and murderous plan is eased up with some very funny moments as well as some brilliant touches of authenticity.

In the scene where Kidman (Perlman) and Jonny (Grint) confront the Ironmonger (Cosmo),  aka Dawson, and his thugs. The loan shark is making an elaborate sculpture of the London Bridge out of matchsticks. He then goes on to list the other historical landmarks he has constructed. In English prisons, inmates are allowed to purchase matchsticks and glue in order to make things in their cells. A little touch of truth that helps to sell Cosmo’s character.

There are two shootouts in the film, both take place around  Dawson although the first one is instigated by Kidman. The CIA man tells the thugs to sit still and no one will be hurt, he immediately proves himself to be lying when he starts shooting Dawson’s men.

Later there is a more prolonged fire fight between the CIA  heavies who have come to execute those who have worked on the faked landing film as well as Kidman, presumably, and the Ironmonger’s troops who have come to “sort those c****s out.”

Perlman shows that he can do comedy brilliantly regardless of the role he is playing. The scenes after Ella (Belgian actress Erika Sainte) gives Kidman acid for his headache are hysterical with Perlman getting laughs without dialogue. (The bit with the door knob is just beyond funny and it is done silently.)

American critics slammed the film upon its 2015 limited release and it is easy to see why. Set predominately in London  at the time of flower power, free love, tuning out and turning on  the film feels more British than American.

Moonwalkers pokes fun at the “Yanks” (but not too much) as much as it needles the infant space program and the American’s enthusiasm for lying about the mission if it fails.

The film looks spectacular.  The clothing, the sets and the atmosphere all  feel like ’60s London.  At the end of the day, Perlman makes the viewer laugh, and cringe at his character’s tendency to move into violent mode at the drop of a hat and Grint makes the audience like him.

It is hard to understand quite why critics panned the film on release. It is as blackly comic, in it own way, as the 2011 film “God Bless America” with the  added bonus of a lot of references to Kubrick’s work. This is a cracking film. Running at 107 minutes the it does not feel  overly long.

“Moonwalkers”  is a little “Kubrick,” a touch of black comedy, and generally good fun. It is streaming on Netflix at the moment so head over and watch it. A 4 out of 5 star film well worth experiencing.

Assassin’s Creed Movie Filming in September With Two Cast Members?

Poster for Assassin's Creed I
I have deliberately avoided reading anything about the upcoming film version of Assassin’s Creed game from Ubisoft. One reason has to do with Nolan North, it is his voice I hear when Miles speaks in my mind, just as it is his verbal utterances I hear when thinking of Nathan Drake, another has to do with the watering down of the game in the franchise. The news that filming is due to commence in September this year, with an apparent cast of two, is surprising to say the least.

Michael Fassbender, whom I’ve been a fan of since the Brit horror film Eden Lake, where he played a chap who did everything wrong early in the film and the equally English TV show Hex, may make a great Desmond Miles, although not as great as Nolan, in my humble opinion. The actor will also, again in my own humble opinion, never top his android David from Prometheus.

As for Marion Cotillard being the female scientist/assistant who aids Desmond? I am not really sure that she is who I envisioned as Lucy in the game. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cotillard, so much in fact that I actually sat down and watched another French film; last year’s Two Days, One Night.

Michael Fassbender via @Pinterist
Michael Fassbender as Desmond Miles?

Another reason I’ve not read paid much attention to the big screen version of the game also has to do with the video game itself.

When Assassin’s Creed first came out, my daughter bought the game from Game in Ipswich. Her Christmas present had been a PlayStation 3, something I knew that I’d get plenty of use from, Dad’s no fool, and when we first plugged the game in, and waited ages for it to upload, we were not too overly impressed with the graphics.

Then my youngster got a better TV, an HD one. When we watched the scenes of Assassin’s Creed unfold on the screen of this new telly, our eyes did not seem big enough to take everything in. The graphics were incredible and so real. The story had already become a favorite, Altair’s fall from grace, his having to start over and the slow realization that not all is as it seems trumped what many called the repetitive game play.

The game spawned a glut of sequels, including the annoying Ezio Auditore who took over as the franchise hero. Even though my love for the game declined with each new version, I miss it. When I moved from England I sold my (sob) UK PS3, and my Xbox. I still have some favorite games, Uncharted, all of them, Assassin’s Creed, et al, all lovingly stored in a box…in the shed…sniffle. I have yet to get a replacement for either of these long lost consoles and it kills me.

For that reason alone, I’ve avoided any talk of games to movies, but also because of Naughty Dog and their Uncharted franchise’s move to film their game’s story. When they initially decided to have the game adapted to the big screen, the company opted to relinquish creative control. While fans of the game expected either Nolan North to play Nathan Drake, or at least Nathan Fillion, the filmmakers had decided to cast Mark Wahlberg as Nate.

IGN mockup of Nathan Fillion as Nathan Drake
Fillion and Drake, 2010 dream casting idea.

After a few choice expletives and OMGs, the news then came that Bradley Cooper was the main choice, Fillion was considered “too old.” On top of all that, it seemed that the film version would also not have Emily Rose as Elena and Sully was to be scrapped in favor of characters who did not exist.

The last word on Uncharted the film, has Seth Gordon down to direct, according to Wikia and while IMDb has the film opening in 2016, there are no cast members listed. Thankfully, Wahlberg’s name is absent.

It will be interesting to see just what the film version of Desmond Miles and his adventures with the Animus will be. Since filming has not started yet, it will also be interesting to see who will wind up in the final cast list. In the meantime, I’ll keep searching for incredibly cheap PS3 and or Xbox replacements, cheap as in free…if you get my drift.

2 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith