It’s kind of different, but not really.

Jim here.

So, I watched "Gentlemen Broncos."


One of the things I love the most about movies is getting to watch a young director develop. Seeing a style go from very basic to sophisticated, while still retaining the sensibility that made it so energizing in the first place is an amazing thing. Being a music fan and hearing the changes in Clapton's style, while realizing that it is still very similar to what he was doing as a young man is the same to me as watching The Departed and seeing how Scorsese has developed over the years.

Then you have the ones who don't change. Sometimes this is great. BB King hasn't really gone through much transformation in the past 30 years but is there anyone out there who can find fault with what he does? Sometimes it's not so great. Who really wants to hear the same album over and over again.

This is the case with Gentlemen Broncos. Jared Hess made his name with "Napoleon Dynamite" and I dare say has not lived up to that name since. His follow up "Nacho Libre" wasn't exactly received as warmly, and his latest "Gentlemen Broncos" doesn't quite live up either.

Hess revels in the world of the outcast and the underdog and has kind of fallen into a trap. What once seemed fresh, interesting, and grotesquely fascinating has become stale, forced, and off-putting. That isn't to say it isn't a good movie. It is just that. Good. Not great. Not particularly entertaining or memorable. Just good.

"Broncos" is the story of Ben, a young aspiring sci-fi writer who uses his writing as a way to deal with his father's death. We don't get much more development on him. He's like Napoleon, we know he's an outcast and that seems to be all we need to know.

Ben (the wonderful Michael Angarano, whose work I have loved since discovering him as Young William Miller in Almost Famous) has written story called "The Yeast Lords: The Bronco Years," which he enters in a workshop contest judged by his idol Doctor Ronald Chevalier (Flight of the Conchord's Jermaine Clement in a show stealing, star making, fucking BRILLIANT performance) , more on him in a bit. Ben hopes to win the contest and get published. However, Chevalier, suffering a years long slump, steals his book, makes a few changes (most notably changing his hero into a tranny and publishes the book as, "The Chronicles of Brutus and Balzaak."

There is some wonderfully absurdist humor in this film, but then absurdist humor is Hess' wheelhouse. But therein lies the problem. Absurdist humor works, but only to a certain point. At that point if you are not completely with it, you are left way, way behind. That is how I felt for most of this film. He took things that were charming and funny in his earlier work and made them too much. Instead of Pedro we get Lonnie, who was creepy and a little gross. Instead of Deb we get Tabitha, who is a little bit more aggressive and a lot more a major pain in the balls. Instead of grandma with her llama, we get Ben's mother's obliviousness and hideous clothing designs.

All in all this film does not work. But, there are a number of good things to offset the bad and keep this film from a tailspin.

The good-

Mike White as Dusty. This is yet another grotesquery of a character, but he works. There is a quiet sleaziness to him that is fascinating. He also has the funniest snake moment I have ever seen. You may not like it, it's rather low brow, but I have ophidophobia (a terrible snake phobia) and it made me laugh out loud and rewind three times.

All of Sam Rockwell's scenes. Saying that Sam Rockwell is good in something carries about as much weight as saying Ben Kingsley is good in something. Really? Sam Rockwell was GOOD! No shit? What else can you tell me? Is water still wet? Is the sky still blue? Rockwell is outstanding as both Bronco and Brutus. The flashes to the book are outstanding. It is cheap sci-fi, but good cheap sci-fi. Every time they go into a passage from the book it is solidly engaging and entertaining. And the different performances given by Rockwell just reinforce him as an acting powerhouse who is counting the days until he gets his first Oscar.

Jermaine Clement. I have no limit of good things to say about him in this. It is possibly the greatest comic performance in a movie this century. He is Cristof Waltz good. And if you know me, you know how massive a statement this is. The few scenes he is in make the film. He is an arrogant man who truly does not see his arrogance. His scenes range from in depth descriptions of the art he created for his "Cyborg Harpies" trilogy of books, to furiously deriding a woman for wanting to name a troll "Teacup," to advising adding the suffix -anous to any name to create an acceptable sci-fi name. (I am a bit half on half over being known as Jimanous).

The problem with "Gentlemen Broncos" is that, with the exception of a few well written characters, brilliant performances, and interesting scenes, feels stale. I feel as though I am seeing someone trying to recreate and make me care about a time when they were doing new and exciting things. I enjoyed it some, but it is something I don't ever intend on rewaching.


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