Rupert Grint (Harry Potter's Ron Weasley) and Ron Perlman (Hellboy's Hellboy) team up in Moonwalkers, a farcical British action-comedy about the staging of the moon landing. It opens Friday for a limited engagement at the Cedar Lee.
Though it's difficult to justify recommending this one when so many Oscar-caliber films are clogging the marquee, curious moviegoers will find, within Moonwalkers, a few surprisingly well-staged action sequences and at least a handful of successful culture-clash comedic encounters.
After all, the story follows a gruff, unstable CIA operative named Kidman (Perlman) who's fresh off a Vietnam tour. He's tapped to travel to Great Britain and enlist director Stanley Kubrick to create, on short notice, a staged moon landing in the event the Apollo 11 mission runs afoul. The parodically out-of-touch intelligence officials in America are convinced that due to the realistic effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick will be able to put together a lunar facsimile in the span of a few days; the same officials evidently hadn't thought to commission the film ahead of time.
In Britain, however, Kidman gets strapped with Jonny Thorpe (Grint), a seedy rock manager who's trying to land a record deal for the talentless band he babysits. After a fortuitous case of mistaken identity, Jonny smells a huge payday and persuades his stoned flat mate Leon (an inspired Robert Sheehan, of The Mortal Instruments) to pretend he's Kubrick.
Lemons thus provided, Kidman reluctantly goes about overseeing the making of this cinematic lemonade. And if the druggy clan of filmmakers weren't trouble enough, British loan sharks and impatient CIA agents complicate the proceedings.
The whole thing is set, self-evidently, in the 1960s, and rookie director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet overestimates the comedic value of psychedelic drugs. Nonetheless, the premise ain't half-bad — it has a sort of aspirant Snatch flavor — even if the script is ham-handed and explicative throughout. ("You're telling me we only have 20 minutes to film this thing?" Jonny inquires; "You're telling me we're all dead if we don't finish this in 12 hours?" he squeaks; "I'm telling you we're dead if we try to get that money back," he tells Kidman.)
Not an exemplary script, sure, and one that could've used a lot more meat on its bones, but Bardou-Jacquet is right to assume that Perlman navigating a sea of swinging flower children with British accents is pretty funny without any script at all. Likewise Kidman's flippant views on the value of life. Bardou-Jacquet has a background in graphic design and music videos, and so when Kidman blows off gangsters' heads at close range, they really explode.
It's a modest and bumpy achievement, in the end, but it might be about all we should expect from a debut director who's infatuated above all (at least for the moment) with "fights and stupidity." In those categories, Moonwalkers delivers in spades.