This may have been the quirkiest film I’ve seen in quite a while. It wasn’t exactly as advertised, but it paid off in the end.
Gunther is the world’s greatest assassin, so to make a name for themselves, a group of assassins sets out to assassinate him, but their plans turn into a series of bungled encounters as Gunther seems to always be one step ahead. The story is told as a mockumentary, which wasn’t exactly what I expected, but the format helped to cleverly mask the low budget of the film.
Killing Gunther was funny enough, and there was enough light action to carry the story but it didn’t really get going until Gunther (Schwarzenegger) made his eventual appearance. This is the value a true star can bring to your film. He wasn’t wasted, and his performance did elevate that of the entire cast, but it took a bit too long to get to him. I liked Schwarzenegger in this one because it seemed like he was there to have fun, and just make a fun little film…with assassinations. Unfortunately the shooting style can turn off some, and the fact that Arnold isn’t seen until the last third of the movie makes the wait a little tedious at times.
Bottom Line: As long as you don’t go into this thinking it’s a Schwarzenegger film, you should be okay. Don’t have super high expectations and you can enjoy a quirky little bit of cinema.
No pain, no gain. That’s how the old saying goes, and it is put to the test for Alice and John (Juno Temple and Michael Angarano), a young married couple struggling to get by. Alice is unemployed, unable to put her Art History degree to work, and John has been fired from his telemarketing job; but things start to turn around for them when Alice finds an odd brass teapot in an antique store. Alice discovers that when she accidentally hurts herself, the teapot fills itself with money. Feeding off pain, the teapot repeatedly pays off for Alice, who stubs her toe, punches a cupboard, and puts herself through the wringer before John gets home from work. The two discover that they have a magic teapot that does indeed reward pain. Finding themselves on “easy street” the two build their wealth, but at a cost. They are approached by a specialist (a Theosophist in fact), Dr. Ling (Stephen Park) who warns them that they must give up the teapot willingly to him so he can destroy it, and they can be free from its curse. Alice does not believe him, thinking the obvious, that Dr. Ling just wants the teapot for himself. As their standing in life improves, Alice and John start to become more shallow people; ignoring past friends, obsessing over material objects, and Alice shows the symptoms more than her husband. Soon the teapot starts paying out less and less when they hurt themselves, but they soon discover it feeds off the pain of others. The couple take the teapot anywhere people get hurt: a mixed martial arts fight pays well, but so does the maternity ward as Alice observes a birth for the easy cash. Soon this pain is not enough for the teapot and the two soon resort to psychological pain, telling each other secrets that they know will hurt the other. When that slows down, they start to reveal their friends’ secrets. How far will the couple go to have all their dreams come true?
I enjoyed this dark fairy tale, and watching how the couple would try to hurt themselves really did provide most of the laughs, but their relationship kind of strengthens because of it. They of course slam fingers in drawers, burn themselves on the stove, but their wild sex night, was really an interesting spin. At one point, after they’ve inflicted the emotional pain on each other, they realize that they now have a completely honest relationship. The cast were excellent from top to bottom. Juno Temple became really intense when the “power of the teapot” seemed to completely engulf her. Michael Angarano was a perfect as the “grounded” husband, who clearly loved his wife and would do anything for her, but desperately tried to reel her in before one of them went too far. His performance was highlighted by some excellent physical comedy. Alexis Bledel played their successful friend from high school, giving the young couple a “target” or someone to compete with financially and eventually someone with painful secrets to reveal. Lucy Walters and Jack McBrayer play Alice’s sister and brother-in-law, and Alia Shawkat and Bobby Moynihan rounded out the supporting cast as Alice and John’s best friends Louise and Chuck; another couple who were struggling to make ends meet. I really liked the Chuck character he was funny and down to earth, helping to remind John about who he used to be.
This was an excellent film that mixes The Twilight Zone, Lord of the Rings, and even the Holy Grail myths (the Biblical relic, not the Monty Python film) into one dark comedy. Director Ramaa Mosley co-wrote (with Tim Macy) the movie, but did much more than that. The story was originally intended to be a comic book, but grew into a movie and also spawned a documentary (Uncovering: The Brass Teapot). The documentary tells of how the original brass teapot may have been forged at the time of Christ’s crucifixion, with Judas throwing his silver coin payoff into a blacksmith’s cauldron which then forged the both magical and cursed teapot. The teapot travelled to key people in history, visiting Genghis Khan, Julias Caesar, Caligula, King Arthur, Leonardo Da Vinci and even Adolf Hitler; each time bringing rewards based on pain. Taking this history and developing it into a story where a normal couple find the teapot was quite an undertaking, and makes you think, if holy wars and genocide were committed to satisfy the teapot’s needs, where would Alice and John stop? The director has fielded many emails and calls from people writing their theses on the legend of this indestructible brass teapot, which is ironic because the whole thing is made up. The history, the documentary, everything, all fiction, and based on Tim Macy’s short story. Did I have you going there for a second? They had me going for a minute after watching the documentary. They’ve made it sound so plausible, people do really believe in The Brass Teapot, and that mythology, that developed history, that is what made me bump this from a 3.5 to a 4 star review.