Reviewed by Greg King
Director: Paco Cabezas
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Sam Rockwell, Tim Roth, James Ransome, Anson Mount, RZA, Kate Nehas, Michael Eklund.
This romcom/action comedy with a high body count depicts the whirlwind relationship that develops between a deadly efficient hitman and a ditzy girl. There have been a couple of other romantic comedies involving hitmen, including Mr And Mrs Smith, Killers with Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl, the dire Gigli, the low point of Ben Affleck’s career, and even Prizzi’s Honour, with Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner and Anjelica Huston. But Mr Right ironically gets it mostly wrong. This is a tonally uneven black comedy that comes across as a second rate Tarantino-like mix of comedy and violence.
Martha McKay (played by Anna Kendrick in a change of pace from her usual light weight romantic comedies and the Pitch Perfect franchise) is a reckless, emotionally unstable 26 year old with a terrible taste in men. Following her latest breakup, she heads out on the town for a night out with her flat mate Sophia (Kate Nehra). Hungover the next morning she is staggering through a convenience store when she literally bumps into Francis (Sam Rockwell, from The Green Mile, Moon, etc), and the attraction between the two is almost instantaneous. Francis is a contract killer, albeit one with a moral compass – he now only kills those who hire his services, believing that murder is wrong.
Francis is on the run from his former mentor, the enigmatic and untrustworthy Hopper (Tim Roth), the man who trained him. Hopper pretends to be an FBI agent so he can enlist local cops in his pursuit. But Francis also finds himself targeted by some dimwitted low life drug dealers from New Orleans – the conniving Vaughn (James Ransome, from the tv series Bosch, etc), who wants to take over their criminal empire from his brother Richard (Anson Mount, from tv series Hell On Wheels, etc), and the thuggish Johnny Moon (Michael Eklund, from The Call, etc). After witnessing Francis shoot a man, Martha is reluctantly drawn into his fight against these various antagonists. But surprisingly, she proves quite adept at the killer arts as well.
Mr Right has been written by Max Landis, the son of director John Landis, of Blues Brothers fame. Landis also wrote the violent black comedy American Ultra, and while it shares a few superficial similarities, this is an inferior film by comparison. The plot is a little too convoluted for its own good.
The director is Paco Cabezas, whose previous film was the Nicolas Cage actioner Rage, which, like a lot of Cage’s recent output, bypassed local cinemas and disappeared straight to DVD. The film has been flatly directed by Cabezas, who seems unsure of what tone to strike throughout. The film is quite violent at times, although Landis and director Cabezas try to play the material for laughs. There are some funny moments throughout, but far too many misfire. And the graphic violence is a bit over the top, particularly in its climactic confrontation.
The films works better than it should mainly on the strength of the wonderful chemistry and rapport that develops between Kendrick and Rockwell. The role of Martha plays to the strengths of Kendrick’s normally kooky screen persona, and she actually seems to relish this opportunity to play outside of her comfort zone. She handles a couple of the action sequences quite well. However, her character does grate occasionally. Rockwell is no stranger to quirky characters, and he is also perfectly cast here. He played a psychotic hitman in Seven Psychopaths, and here he captures Francis’ idiosyncrasies and his edgy, jittery mannerisms.
Roth does what he can with a stereotypical, one dimensional villain, and his Hopper is a familiar role in his repertoire. However, there is one scene here – a standoff during a shootout – that may remind audiences of a key scene from Reservoir Dogs. Rapper RZA is good as a thug named Shotgun Steven, and he gets the bulk of the best lines.
Mr Right is a tonally uneven and morally ambiguous action comedy with a convoluted plot and too many plot holes to really leave a lasting impression with film goers.