The film follows Craig Golightly (Brad Jones), an exploitation film screenwriter, is working with his friend Neil (Jake Norvell) to fund their newest idea--a blaxploitation flick called Black Angus. But when the biggest film hotshot in town, Dan Phillips (Ryan Mitchelle), refuses to fund them, they have to turn to a rich high school companion of Neil's named Gene (Noah Antwiler). And he even gets him a legitimate black guy to star as Black Angus, a street-wise albeit cultured theatre actor named Vladimir Jackson (Orlando Belisle). Unfortunately, Vlad is contracted under Dan, who also lets Craig know that he can't film his movie even with Gene's funding because Dan owns shooting permits in the town. So Craig has to change his look and go undercover into Dan's pretentious film club and get in good with them before asking for the shooting permits. But soon after Craig begins getting close with a woman in the group, Nancy (Jillian Zurawski), everything starts getting a little... bloody.
Even as somebody who is barely familiar with the character and the regular show, I found this easy to follow. You don't need to know any background or connection because, smartly, Brad Jones wrote this so that anybody could watch and not be lost (while still keeping in jokes for the long-time fans). Unless you're a hardcore b-movie fanatic and trivia junkie, a lot of the references will go over your head (as they did mine), but that's part of the joke itself, and it works. And if you do get the references, I'm sure that makes it even better, so it works all around.
So the writing is quite smart. The film itself acts as an over-the-top commentary against pretentious film snobs, an issue I've dealt with plenty in the past (and returned the favor in my own way with my now famous Troll 2 review). One of the characters in the climax of the film brilliantly rants about how not all films are created equal, and you should not judge and criticize certain films on the same scale as the more arthouse and Oscar-bait types. They're not made for the same reasons. Some movies are just made to be fun. You don't go into a gore film and complain that you didn't like all the gore. You don't watch a b-movie and then hate on the acting. That's not the point. And this film truly explores that well, even to a meta degree. I don't mean to get pretentious here, but the early part of the movie references Kaufman, while the second part of the movie takes a very Kaufman-esque turn in that what it's referencing and toying with is exactly what it becomes. And I love when stories do that.
And then you have the acting, which I think is fantastic. The film turns out some really fun performances. Jake Norvell's Neil is such a goofy character, and I started laughing any time he showed up simply because he was always eating something different every time he appeared. Noah Antwiler's Gene had some great lines and stole every scene he was in. Though, hands down, Orlando Belisle stole the entire movie. He's actually not in it much, but his character was hilarious in his conflicting nature (the way he talked and acted versus what was actually coming out of his mouth). And he had one of the biggest Kaufman-esque turns in the movie, as well (though to, I admit, a surprising/unexpected result). Jillian Zurawski plays an almost anti-Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She's quirky, but in a realistic "fuck hipsters" kind of way. (And you get to see her topless. Just throwin' that out there.) And I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention Ed Glaser as one of the side characters of the film club--he's hilarious just by facial expressions, and he gets even funnier when they finally talk to him. Finally, Brad continues to show how he shines as an actor, and he's easily able to carry the film.
If you're a fan of low-budget movies, b-movies, or exploitation movies... or you just get frustrated with pretentious film snobs... definitely check out this film. At the moment, it can be bought through Walkaway Entertainment (where you can also find the trailer if you'd like to see that, as well). It also comes with a commentary by the filmmakers and producers (and Jake), a cast commentary, and a comedy RiffTrax-style commentary by That Guy With The Glasses creators Doug and Rob Walker. And a blooper reel. It's a smartly made and pretty funny film, and it looks great for low budget. If it sounds interesting, definitely check it out.
Royale With Cheese