Thanks to deplorable direction by Paco Cabezas, and a childishly broad screenplay by Max Landis, “Mr. Right” ends up all wrong. Its one saving grace comes in the form of an efficient cast, headlined by Anna Kendrick and the always-fun-to-watch Sam Rockwell. Among the array of supporting players, Tim Roth does an okay job as the half-dimensional “seriously mean guy” (yes, a direct quote from the film) and Wu-Tang clan honcho the RZA makes a late appearance as hired gun Steven, nailing the film’s funniest moment. The rest of the cast is, unfortunately, disposable thanks to a screenplay that sounds like it was written one late night in a hotboxed frat room. It’s such a cool story bro, you can practically see the Doritos stains. Cabezas’ last movie was the Nicolas Cage-starring “Rage,” which, if you’ve deleted from memory is more than understandable. The picture featured tasteless D-movie action getting in the way of everything else, and this trend continues in “Mr. Right.” The garish action is always desperate to be entertaining, only succeeding in making Steven Seagal movies look like Christopher Nolan directed them.
The basics of the plot might sound just a tad familiar. Martha (Kendrick), a girl who has a feisty nature from an early age, grows up to be an emotionally imbalanced young lady with terrible taste in men. On the day we meet her, she breaks up with her boyfriend because he enters the house making out with another girl, about to have sex with her in front of Martha. Just one of those guys desperate for validation, as he himself says. Martha, aiming to ease her broken heart, wants to do something “terrible” like go to a bar, get drunk, and show her boobs to some strangers. Her friends do their best to console her (though only one of them seems to realize her actions are borderline crazy), but it’s not until she bumps into Francis (Rockwell) in a convenience store that she really starts to get her shit together. Kind of, sort of, not really.
Francis has his own quirky, pastiched demons. He’s a contract killer programmed to be something of a supersonic killing machine that channels the energy around him to do cool things like dodge bullets and catch knives. But he’s a sweetheart, really: he’s got this thing where he turns on the people who hire him and kills them instead, because he’s a killing machine with morals. The man responsible for training him is Hopper (Roth), who changes his identity to FBI agent Leonard Knox through some super-awesome computing device that speaks to him. He just adopts a terrible Southern accent, but, okay. Hopper is out to get Francis, while two gangster brothers, Vaughn (James Ransone) and Richard (Anson Mount), are also out for Francis’ blood when he turns out to be more dangerous than they expected. Does this sound vague? Try watching it.
With little help from Landis and Cabezas, these fine actors must rely on their comical quirks and idiosyncrasies to power through what is a furiously silly story. This is why Kendrick, Rockwell, and to some degree the RZA, are the greatest thing about it. The delivery of their dialogue is infinitely funnier than the dialogue itself. In this way, Francis’ literal jokes about taking a few minutes outside to kill a dude, or Martha’s indifference to Francis dragging a tasered FBI agent into her house turns out amusingly charming. It also helps that they’ve got nice chemistry together as two kooky kindred spirits. Landis’ script does have a couple of genuinely funny lines, provided that they’re actually his and not the actors improvising them. The greatest one comes from RZA’s Steven, when he complains about the shotgun he must use to kill Francis.
The fun stops there, however. Mind-numbingly nonsensical sequences — Hopper dictating events of Francis’ killing spree as it happens, from the inside of a van, by looking at a billboard, takes the early cake — and a frivolous attitude towards violence, relationships, animals, FBI agents, people in general but women especially, turns “Mr. Right” into a one-dimensional, lazy, mildly offensive attempt at entertainment and humor. Certain moments make you think it’s written and directed in a self-deprecating style, which gives it a few points for, at least, knowing how bad it is. But, that doesn’t make it any more watchable. [D]
This is a reprint of our review from the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.