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.