Friday, March 7, 2014

Knights of Badassdom Review

Knights of Badassdom Review
I always get a kick out a film experience when I think I know what a movie has in store for me, but then it completely blindsides me in the process. Such is the case with "Knights of Badassdom." This is a movie that feels like its going one way, then ends up taking a massive left-turn into weird. Yet, the film still works as a whole and the story is told with grace and joy. How can one really fault a movie for that?

We meet Joe (Ryan Kwanten) as he suffers a bad break-up with his girlfriend (Margarita Levieva). Joe consults his two best friends and roommates Hung (Peter Dinkage) and Eric (Steve Zahn), who are two LARP aka Live Action Role Player enthusiasts (think SLAYER from 2008's "Role Models"). Hung and Eric invite Joe for a weekend of fantasy LARP. Joe begins to forget his ex, when someone or something begins murdering the other LARP members.

At first, "Knights of Badassdom" seems like a more in-depth, and just as fun version of "Role Models." We learn some about how scoring and quests work in fantasy LARP. There is a lot of good humor in the first half of the film, both slapstick and offbeat. There is a healthy balance between both types of humor that I found satisfying. But when the film revamps itself for the big finish, good Lord its nuts. No wonder this film wasn't marketed for conventional theaters. Who could honestly market this properly? Who cares, if you VOD, you owe to yourself to check this out. I am glad something like this was able to be seen, no matter how small the arena. There is a lot of fun action in the last half of the film, stuff that is going to force you to tell yourself how crazy it truly was. You would be right.

Peter Dinkage, so good in HBO's "Game of Thrones" has lots of good material here, and he's very good in it. Both Kwanten and Zahn are both equally great in this. Levieva's character changes the most as the film pushes on, and I think she handles her character's transitions well. Look for Summer Glau from CW's "Arrow" as Gwen. A LARP member who begins to crush on Joe, her character is very different to her character on "Arrow" and she proves she has range. Also look for Jimmi Simpson as the LARP Game Master. Simpson proved in February that he can handle serious material in the second season of "House of Cards." Here, he proves he can be lighthearted and silly, a mark of true talent.

I wish the film was bit longer, I could have easily sat through another twenty minutes with the big fight at the end. There are also a couple of emotional beats that did not feel right to me. I know, "Knights of Badassdom" is a comedy, its not suppose to be long and character development is not always its bag. However, I really feel these improvements could have made the film better. I mean, there is a moment when a key character dies, and when the rest of the group finds his dead body, they barely acknowledge that their best friend is dead. It felt extremely unbelievable to me. But these are mere nitpicks in a rather outrageous film.

All of this just goes to show that high-concept comedies are tricky. They walk a tightrope between fun and cheesy. I am happy to report that "Knights of Badassdom" leans more on the fun side. I don't want to give anything away, I am not one to spoil something full of surprises. All I will say to the cast and crew of this film is job well done.

FINAL GRADE: B+

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