The Reunion, 2011– Snappy Dialogue, Unlikely Characters, Loved It

There are movies out there that are so self-aware they take all the heart out of the story, and the pacing is drowsy. They win scads of awards. I don’t care about awards (unless they happen to hit one I like), and I don’t let critics tell me what to think. Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes they’re wrong. Sometimes they just don’t agree with me. And that’s as it should be. You can’t please all the fans or all the highbrows, or me, all the time.

That said, I’m going against the entire critical tide and recommending a movie I just happened upon the other day. Never heard of it before. But, you know, going through Netflix or Amazon for the umpteenth time with hope bottoming out for ANYTHING to watch besides dark, depressing, R-rated film noir wannabes, or Adam Sandler type non-funny stupidity and crass, and watching Frasier and Keeping Up Appearances till I can say the lines in my sleep, is not my idea of a great evening. And television has nothing for me anymore, except dance and singing. Other shows we sometimes watch air maybe one or two new episodes for every hundred re-runs. So now I read a lot till a good new movie comes along, or somebody recommends one. (Usually not found on my streamable programs).

The Reunion, a 2011 film, doesn’t take itself too seriously, so there are some good, serious scenes and humor sprinkled lavishly throughout. The dialogue is snappy and well-delivered, and I cared about the characters. The heart of the story is the ruptured relationships between three brothers — Sam (big John Cena), Leo (Ethan Embry), and Douglas (Boyd Holbrook) — all with the same mean, abusive father, but different mothers who were never a part of their lives. Only their sister Nina (Amy Smart) holds the tenuous sibling threads together. When their father dies, unmourned by all but sister Nina, the old man’s last wish, crucial to a hefty inheritance, is to bring the boys back into the family fold.

But the cop (Sam), and the bail bondsman (Leo), have too much that is broken in their background to even think about mending the cracks. Their youngest brother, Douglas, doesn’t come with any prehistorical baggage, because he never grew up with them. Only Nina knew he existed. But they tried to keep the kid at arm’s length because he was a thief and just got out of prison. Leo, the talker, dubbed him Little Joe, after the Bonanza character the kid had never heard of. “Didn’t you get Nick at Nite in prison?” asks Leo, appalled. He tells the kid it’s about three brothers with the same father, but different mothers, just like them. Then Leo and Sam fight over who is or isn’t Hoss Cartwright. But the kid, who is so likeable and endearing, has always wanted a real family and tries awkwardly to keep peace between big brooding Sam and little yapping Leo.

John Cena – I looked him up — was/is a famous WWE wrestler. Since I try never even to look at a sweaty wrestler it’s no wonder I never heard of him. But in spite of critics comparing him unfavorably to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — whose claim to movie fame comes mostly from personality and charisma — I thought Cena was good, not because he’s in any way, form, or fashion, a quote unquote great actor, but because he more than adequately filled the role he was called upon to fill.

But my favorite was Leo (Ethan Embry). Never heard of the guy, and I loved him in this role. He made me believe he was who he was. One scene where he poured out all his deep pain, and his expectations and disappointment in big brother Sam, was emotional and affecting without being maudlin. I would like to see this guy in something big.

I also liked one of the action scenes in which Sam leaps onto a rope dangling over a deep canyon, slides down rapidly, and lands on the shoulders of a bad guy, taking him to the ground. But the hard hit and the landing put big Sam briefly out of commission, as it would have if someone tried this for real. None of this Hollywood stuff about being an iron man who can shake off anything. Unless, of course, it is Iron Man. And people who toted guns could actually hit what they aimed at sometimes. None of this spraying bullets and not one connects.

Sure, the plot tends to dash all over the place — it’s a little bit comedy, drama, action, Western, something for everybody. It makes watching The Reunion well worth while. I loved the dialogue, I loved the acting, I bonded with these guys. The core of the movie, the brothers and their relationship, was tight, even though sometimes the outer edges tended to fray. But, all in all, it was more than just an entertaining movie. And it’s one I recommend, warts and all.

I haven’t found a good trailer. The official one below is too clipped and leaves out the best scenes, but it’s all I could find. Just remember, the movie is better than the trailer.

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9 thoughts on “The Reunion, 2011– Snappy Dialogue, Unlikely Characters, Loved It

  1. Intriguing review. I’ll look for it. Sometime when you’re looking for something to watch on Netflix, check out the TV series Alaska State Troopers. I’m not a fan of reality TV, but this is the real deal. It’s worth watching for the magnificent scenery and the local color. The troopers are inspiring, as they serve in challenging situations. This Spring three were lost answering a call in a remote village.

  2. Gee, I’ve never heard of this movie or anyone in it, but I like the premise. I have a rec for you: “Grand Piano” with Elijah Wood and John Cusak. It’s out now on DVD, but I don’t know about streaming. It’s worth it to rent the DVD because the special features are wonderful. I don’t think streaming ever gives you the bonus material. This movie is an edge-of-your-seat thriller, with no bad language, which I know you don’t like. This review says it better than I can:

    http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/grand-piano-2014

    The music is all original and is gorgeous. I downloaded the full score from iTunes. Elijah had piano lessons as a youngster, but never achieved the expertise required to play the diffidcult concert pieces included in the film. HOWEVER…He worked long and hard with a coach and his on-screen playing is amazing. Just shows what hard work can accomplish in a short time. This movie deserves an Oscar for the editing, which is brilliant.

    Contrary to the review, I found the ending VERY satisfying. The whole plot is a bit far-fetched, but it is a terrific thriller none the less.

    • Will check out Grand Piano. Love Elijah Wood, of course, and know you are a big fan. I often think of the things actors have to go through sometimes for their art. Many of them work hard for the money.

      I finally went to the doctor. I’ve had a sinus infection for several weeks, apparently and my whole system has been down. (I sound like a computer, don’t I?) Well, I did crash:) I’m on a round of antibiotics now. Got a shot yesterday to boost them along. I’m already feeling more alert. I even cooked supper tonight without a microwave in the picture. Wheee! I’m almost human again.

      • If you like Elijah, you’ll love him in this movie. He’s wonderful. He had two earpieces, one with John Cusak talking to him so he could react to what was being said, and another with the piano recording playing so he could match his hands to the notes. I don’t know how on earth he pulled that off. It would have driven me nuts.

        I’m so glad you’re starting to feel better. Haven’t you ever been given antibiotics the other times you’ve had sinus infections?

      • Many times before on the antibiotics. But sometimes they don’t find infection, but I still suffer with the sinuses. This time I waited so long to go to the doctor, it turned into a full blown infection. I want to get to a specialist and hopefully get those allergy shots I got back when I was younger. And hot, humid, Alabama is not the best place to live for problems like mine. The other night the temp was like 75 degrees and the humidity was 95 percent. Mike and I plan to visit Flagstaff, AZ next summer. It’s supposed to have the best weather in the country.

      • I’ve never been to Alabama, but from all I’ve heard about its climate, it doesn’t seem very compatible with your health issues. Never been to Arizona either, but it is the place of choice for people with any kind of respiratory and sinus problems. When you go next year, are you going to drive your camper there?

        Remember I mentioned the new singing competition show “Rising Star” that debuted June 22 on ABC? I just watched it (on line) and it’s interesting. The set is a bit busy for my taste and the show is very gimmicky, but there were some good singers. I liked Brad Paisley as a judge, but Kesha and Ludacris not so much. I’ll probably watch a few more episodes and see how it goes, but it’s no American Idol, The Voice, or even The X Factor.

      • Oh, yeah. Mike only has a few more months to retirement. We hope to hit the road by then. With the camper of course. I meant to check out the show but forgot it. What night is it on?

      • “Rising Star” is on Sunday nights, but I don’t recall what time. You can check whatever guide you use. I think it’s on ABC. Tomorrow will be the second show.

        Yay for Mike’s retirement. 🙂

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