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By Mark Bell | August 25, 2012

Alex (Édouard Giard) flies from France to Chicago, leaving behind everything, to be with Lisa (Vanessa Rodriguez), a woman he met on the internet. Unfortunately for Alex, Lisa wasn’t really all that interested in him, and he’s left to his own devices. So he checks into a sketchy motel and heads down to the bar for a drink or eight. During a drunken rant, he stumbles about the idea of opening a pizza delivery service, only the pizza is gourmet and the deliveries are made by female escorts.

The next morning, he is awakened to find Ron (Patrick Zielinski) waiting for him. A slovenly pothead, Ron was at the bar the night before and thinks that Alex is on to something with his pizza-and-escort idea. Alex mostly shrugs it off, but Ron persists, bringing on a business associate, Bob (Torey Adkins), who is fresh from prison and connected with some fresh capital from, of all places, the Republican party. Next thing you know, the three find a pizza joint to work with (convincing the chef and owner, Reza (Rom Barkhordar), that they’re doing high quality pizza parties with clowns) and Alex brings in an escort, Helena (Marielle de Rocca-Serra), to help with the luxurious ladies side of the business.

While the plot could seem zany, Roundabout American doesn’t play it off as such. Not entirely. Sure, there’s some absurdity on display here, but for the most part the film keeps a pretty evenly balanced dry-to-dark comedy ratio. It’s a unique tone, and hard to pin down. Sometimes it’s a criminal underground flick, sometimes you’re getting a healthy dose of laughs and nudity and other times you’re watching characters come to grips with their complicated predicament; it’s all over the place, but not to its detriment.

Édouard Giard plays Alex as a man who is equal parts romantic, loser and arrogant prick. Even as he takes step after step into the criminal underworld, he still looks down on most around him while, at the same time, being unable to come up with a better situation for himself. In the end, he may think he’s the brains behind the operation, but it was really Ron who got the ball moving on almost everything.

And Patrick Zielinski deserves credit for NOT going the Jack Black route in his portrayal of Ron. Believe me, I see many films where the “overweight friend” tries his best to shout and hop around like they just saw Jack Black in High Fidelity and thought, “hey, I can top that!” It’s a welcome change, and if anyone suffers from trying too hard, it’s Torey Adkins as Bob.

While everyone else in the film seems to be playing it softer, letting the strangeness of the plot do most of the comedy work, he leans a bit too far into sleazy, scary criminal caricature. It’s not that it couldn’t work had the movie gone a more nutty route, it’s just most everyone around him doesn’t, so it stands out, for better or worse.

On top of everything else in the film, there’s some political fun to be had. Casting the Republicans as the driving criminal element in town is one thing, but having a pizza-and-escort bash disguised as a Republican event that descends into an old white people orgy is not to be missed. Also having Alex the illegal alien making his money off the capital invested by the party is a nice touch.

The film is also extremely well-shot. The imagery is polished and slick, and for a film that sounds like a silly gibberish comedy, it doesn’t look like it. There is obvious skill and talent in every aspect; no throwaway visuals here.

While the whole is strong, Roundabout American doesn’t resolve itself in the most crisp of manners, and the tone balance starts to go askew; the film definitely tips more towards the dark comedy/almost drama spectrum in the last bits. Like everything else about the film, it may sound absurd when you say it out loud or it seems like it can’t possibly come together, the film still works though. Hell, there could even be a sequel to this flick, if the filmmakers wanted to do it. Not saying it’d be a good idea, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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