Writer-director Jack Beranek’s Max Bishop could easily exist in the same universe as Joe Vs. The Volcano. They both present audiences with a humorous if slightly grim look at how redundant tasks and mind-numbing work can crush one’s soul. So, while they are unrelated, and their purposes are different, this cinematic crime comedy is something of a spiritual successor to that fantastic Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan vehicle (which, for the record, still mostly holds up). The question, does the movie offer anything beyond that to be worthy of a recommendation?
Max Bishop (Chris Charais) is reportedly a very good hitman, but he is forced out of the organization after entirely bumbling a job and allowing the target to escape completely unscathed. After adjusting to the bureaucratic ways of the “real world,” Max lands a position as a custodian at a school. There, he meets Lucy (Iris Seifert), a young girl from a wealthy family who knows of his former career. To ensure her silence, Max agrees to take out Lucy’s nemesis, Ruby (Katie Troske).
That is easier said than done, though, as several competing underworld outfits get wind of the job and offer Max ever-increasing sums of money to both kill the kid and not. As Max gets more comfortable in his role as janitor and comes to know both Lucy and Ruby better, he’s unsure whether he can fulfill his obligation even if he wants to. Does Max take the money, or does he grow a conscience?
Beranek directs Max Bishop with verve, as every scene is brimming with comedic energy or intrigue/intensity over whether or not the titular assassin will kill a little girl. The director of photography, Billy Straub, beautifully captures it all with clever blocking and long takes, ably creating a believable world. Beranek and Steven Sherman’s rhythmic editing also wonderfully adds to the offbeat atmosphere of the production.
“To ensure her silence, Max agrees to take out Lucy’s nemesis…”
Character-wise, the film is a bit of a mixed bag, though definitely leaning more towards the good than bad. Max is an interesting person, who viewers will empathize with. But audiences are never shown him being competent as a hitman, raising questions about his qualifications. The screenplay tells those watching he was good at this job at one point, but that is never shown. It is made all the worst because some random schoolkids outwit him at one point, bringing him to the ground.
Still, and this probably has everything to do with the acting, Max is likable and engaging. Lucy and Ruby are more fleshed out and equally well-acted, though some of the supporting players and their motivations are lacking. But even actors who only appear once or twice for a maximum of five minutes are enjoyable and giving it their all.
And that is the thing about Max Bishop overall that makes it so endearing. Everyone who worked on the project had a fun time, and those good vibes, along with the solid directing and excellent acting, sweep the audience up and take them along for the ride. And while the ending begs one to question the point of it all (as in, what did Max learn during the course of the story?), there is only a single, inevitable conclusion that is followed through on.
While the script for Max Bishop could be punched up a bit more to really round out the characters and show things that are told to the audience, its ample supply of charm will win over viewers. The directing buoys the strange tone, the editing keeps the pace up, and the cinematography is fantastic. But what truly pushes the film past average into darn good territory is the stellar cast.
"…ample supply of charm..."