Monday, 24 October 2016


Jared Hess has had a mixed bag of comedies over the years, with nothing yet able to match his opening foray into features, Napoleon Dynamite. This time he teams up with Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig and Owen Wilson with Masterminds.

David Scott Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) is an armoured-truck driver for Loomis Fargo. His life consists of maintaining his Barry Gibb haircut, relinquishing himself to his bizarre fiancée Jandice (Kate McKinnon) and dreaming about his co-worker Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig). After Kelly gets herself fired, her sinister friend Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) suggests they plan a heist of Loomis Fargo, and use Ghantt’s affliction for Kelly to set him up as a pawn.

The plan is to have Ghantt complete the robbery, hand over the $17 million to Chambers and hightail it to Mexico, where Chambers will drip-feed Ghantt with enough money to live until it all dies-down and he can return to take his fair share. However, elements of the heist are botched by Ghantt, and FBI Agent Scanlon (Leslie Jones) starts to put the pieces together and track him down.

I have to admit I went into Masterminds with fairly low expectations. This comedy troupe - whether together or apart - produces both hits and misses, but I left pleasantly surprised. It’s not a great film by any long shot but it stands head-and-shoulders above some of the comedies we’ve seen recently. Considering how heavily-saturated the genre is, that could be considered a compliment. The actual comedy is predictably unstable, riding a sine wave of effectiveness. Early moments like David and Jandice’s wedding photography scene with Enya’s ‘Only Time’ blazing, or the robbery sequence keep you watching where other jokes pass by with not a murmur.

Since the film is based on an actual event – the 1997 Loomis Fargo Robbery – Masterminds doesn’t really have any crazy, outlandish sequences, which is probably its strongest asset. It relies more on standard slapstick and screwball comedy where others would stage a huge comedy-action sequence. It’s by no means a subtle film, yet in a genre where everybody’s jumping on the shock-train and trying to outdo each other, a film that’s even slightly understated like this is a breath of fresh air.

Galifianakis plays Ghantt as a bumbling idiot which might be exaggerated but it works, although half his performance can be attributed to his hair. McKinnon has just the right amount of involvement, with just a few well-rounded scenes – considering that she’s effectively playing a creepy doll-like character, somewhat reminiscent of Pris from Bladerunner, any more screen time for Jandice would have been a mistake. However both Wilson and Wiig were more of a let-down. Wilson doesn’t really escape from his ‘I’m Owen Wilson’ shoes but manages to whinge a hell of a lot, and Wiig’s Kelly is sidelined for a lot of the film, only really there to further Ghantt’s story. By far the best character in Masterminds however, is Jason Sudeikis’ Mike the assassin. With just the right mix of psychopathic and weirdly genteel, he outclasses the other secondary characters with a minimal amount of screen time.

Masterminds is by no means going to top the list of best comedies of the year, and it will probably be exiled to a life of occasional Netflix viewings. However, its comparatively toned-down approach is a relief point in an increasingly excessive genre.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Jasper Roberts Consulting - Widget