In its continuing quest to make Paul “Triple H” Levesque a viable movie star, WWE casts the hulking wrestler in yet another ex-con role in “Inside Out,” sandwiching him between Michael Rapaport and Parker Posey, arguably two of Hollywood’s quirkiest supporting players. But their flakiness effectively plays off the taciturn, muscle-bound Levesque, whose cliched choice to go straight or crooked, juxtaposed with Rapaport’s loose-cannon loquaciousness, turns moral questions into an entertaining vaudeville routine. Veering crazily in tone, “Inside Out” might fail to catapult its star into wider acceptability, but should delight fans of lightly absurd actioners upon its limited Sept. 9 release.
AJ (Levesque), released from prison after a 13-year stretch discovers that his best pal, Jack (Rapaport), whom he went to jail to protect, has married his best girl (Posey) in his absence. Apparently unfazed, AJ moves in with the couple and their lively daughter (Juliette Goglia), clutching a box of pickle jars, the key to his new, non-criminal future.
But Jack, the son of a ruthless if mild-mannered veterinarian-cum-crime lord (Bruce Dern, in fine thesping fettle), has other ideas, anxious to rope him back into the family fold and its newest extralegal venture: cigarette smuggling. While AJ manages to resist dad’s insidious blandishments, he has no defense against violent psycho Jack, and soon finds himself carting around dead bodies and lying through his pearly whites to shield Jack from the consequences of his increasingly off-the-wall nastiness.
Scripter Dylan Schaffer and helmer Artie Mandelberg make the most of Rapaport’s rat-a-tat commentary, spoken in classic post-Tarantino gangster mode, to fill the gaps around Levesque’s frequent stolid silences. Silence is also the stock in trade of Dern’s main enforcer, a black-clad Eastern European assassin named Irena (Jency Griffin), whose wide scary grin attests to her love for her work, and whose scrawled trademark “Kaboom” precedes her problem-solving explosions.
Meanwhile, Julie White, as a screwball tax investigator, sets the stage for the pic’s convoluted happy-unhappy-happy ending. If many of the script’s circumstances seem a bit too convenient (both AJ and the tax investigator are given cancer-ridden dying parents, apparently so their paths can unwittingly cross at the hospital), Mandelberg’s direction provides a cavalier “what next?” verve that invites incongruity.
Production values are solid, with fluid action sequences that show none of the stop-and-go problems that characterized earlier WWE outings.