There’s a whole lot going on with writer/director Justin Daly’s directorial debut, The Big Take. It’s best described as a comedy-of-errors with elements of noir blended in. The story is a bit convoluted, and there are a number of missed opportunities for comedy, but I still found myself enjoying it due to a (mostly) strong and enthralling cast. This film is a thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the humor is situational and dry. There are a few major flaws that prevent Daly’s film from being as great as it could have been. The strengths do outnumber the flaws, but just barely.
“…best described as a comedy-of-errors with elements of noir blended in.”
The story begins when nightclub busboy and aspiring producer Vic Venitos (played by Slate Holmgren) gets snubbed by big-time actor Douglas Brown (played by James McCaffrey). Venitos drugs Brown and videotapes him with a transgender hooker, aiming to use the scandalous footage as blackmail to procure a budget for a film he wants to make with screenwriter Max O’Leary (played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach). O’Leary and his beautiful wife Oxana (played by Oskana Lada) are both oblivious to the blackmail plot, and they believe that Brown is signed onboard to put the film into production. Meanwhile, Brown and his agent Jack Giradi (played by Bill Sage) hire a private director (played by Dan Hedaya) and a mysterious tough-as-hell hitwoman (played by the incredible Zoë Bell) to put an end to Venitos scheme. Through a series of misunderstandings, O’Leary and Oxana unwittingly get deeper and deeper into trouble. People get shot, tortured, and beat up all for the sake of a low-budget passion project.
Some of the cast in this is brilliant. James McCaffrey is amazing and plays Douglas Brown as such an unctuous douchebag. His first few scenes are deliciously marvelous, and I think McCaffrey is criminally underrated. Bill Sage and Dan Hedaya are beyond solid here too. Hedaya is a professional at being intimidating, and I loved how things went down with his character. Zoë Bell’s character, Edie, was definitely a highlight here, she’s pretty frightening as a killer for hire, and despite her ridiculous motivation for her choices later on in the film, I still thought she played everything top notch. It’s always a treat to see Robert Forster, but his part, as Detective Aborn wasn’t very substantial. The lead is where the film gets marked down for me. Ebon Moss-Bachrach seemed like he was mumbling his lines, and I feel like his character was out of his element, and this could have worked better if it was more comedic and not so deadpan serious. In comparison to the actors I mentioned previously, he definitely gets outshined most of the time. Oskana Lada’s character is just there, and there’s not enough of her for me to really assess her performance. Slate Holmgren has some of the best lines early on, and despite being the one who sets the plot into motion, he kind of disappears for a majority of the film.
“People get shot, tortured, and beat up all for the sake of a low-budget passion project.”
I don’t mind shutting my brain off and dialing up my suspension of disbelief, but if you’re one of those people who point out flaws in logic and unlikely coincidences, this movie will definitely make your blood boil. I feel like the cinematography and editing was slick and stylish, but it also has a punk rock/hardcore soundtrack that, in my opinion, just doesn’t seem to fit well with the style and themes of this particular movie. The notion of an actor being embarrassed over having sex with a transgender hooker seems a bit silly and archaic in 2018. They hype up the footage like it was an absolute big deal, but it’s kind of not. It would have been a million times better if they were vague about what exactly was on the tape. It’s one of those things where my imagination conjures up much more twisted and disturbing images instead of what amounts to being modernly pretty vanilla. I also feel like The Big Take could have benefitted from some clever twist or maybe a shocking ending, but it kind of just peters out ends exactly how I thought it would. The beginning scene with the flashforward of Max O’Leary beaten and bloody stating that he had to kill someone to get into the film business feels completely unnecessary. I’d recommend this film with the caveat that it’s not perfect, but it has some enjoyable performances and an interesting mish-mash of genres that feels fresh and worthwhile.
8 out of 10
The Big Take (2018) Written and Directed by Justin Daly. Starring Ebon Moss-Bachrach, James McCaffrey, Bill Sage, Oskana Lada, Dan Hedaya, Robert Forster, Zoë Bell, Slate Holmgren