Writer-director Chad Hamilton makes his feature-length debut with the comedic noir Bad Romance. After his wife, Erin Rose (Kristen Marie Perry), was murdered, Rob (Sanjay Rao) became one of the loneliest people on the planet. Unfortunately, all the man has to go off of is a first name and last initial: Jack S. But, things finally begin to look up for Rob when his friend, Frank (Jeff Riberdy), tips him off to a bartender sporting a “Jack S.” tattoo.
Rob asks the attractive bartender, Hannah (Emily Trent), about the possible killer. It turns out Jack S. (Raleigh Moore) is her ex-husband, and things did not end well. Rob convinces Hannah to help entrap Jack S. to try and discover if her ex is capable of murder. To that end, Rob enlists movie-obsessive Antonio (Chad Hamilton) to craft the proper story to get Jack S. to strike. But, as Rob’s made-up scenario grows out of control, Hannah begins to wonder if Erin Rose was ever real or just in his head.
There’s a “twist” very close to the end of Bad Romance that threatens to derail the motion picture entirely. If Hamilton had chosen this as the actual ending, the film wouldn’t be worth a damn. Luckily, the filmmaker piles on a few more twists, undoing that first one. Once viewers recognize that this is the director’s way of messing with the reveal and layers intrinsic to the genre, it falls in line perfectly.
“Rob convinces Hannah to help entrap Jack S. to try and discover if her ex is capable of murder.”
Thank goodness for that, as there is so much to enjoy here. Full disclosure: yes, Rao can be a little too much at times, layering the posturing nature of Rob with too much earnestness. This juxtaposition is over-the-top, but that is the point. The actor understands how his character is written and the tone the filmmaker is aiming for, allowing for genuine empathy to sneak in unexpectedly. This is most evident when Rob begins to realize what is actually happening.
Emily Trent is just as good as the more world-wary skeptic. After hearing Rob’s story and learning that he is serious, the way she breaks down and laughs that she thought it was a weird pickup line is great. Riberdy is quite fun as the only person who might know what’s happening.
Bad Romance is shot in black-and-white, accentuating the noir elements. But the screenplay hones in on the absurdity of such fare on their face. As such, the film only offers a few thrills. But what it lacks in terms of action, it makes up for with comedy. There’s a hilarious ongoing bit about a book shop worker’s boyfriend constantly beating up Rob. In addition, the narration provided by the lead character describing why he’s into certain things (salsa dancing, for one) is hysterical from beginning to end.
Bad Romance might come across as a little annoying at first, but once the story’s thrust gets underway, it is fun. The cast is excellent, the pacing is top-notch, and the humor lands almost every time. Overall, this is an enjoyable little comedy.
"…the humor lands..."