×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Film Review: ‘Mr. Right’

Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick make a killer couple in a retro-styled hit-man comedy that otherwise nearly suffocates on its own cutesiness.

With:
Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick, Tim Roth, James Ransone, Anson Mount, Michael Eklund, Katie Nehra, RZA.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2091935/

For most, “reformed hit man” suggests someone who used to kill people but doesn’t anymore. In the case of “Mr. Right,” however, the label has an altogether different meaning: Instead of bumping off the targets he’s hired to eliminate, Sam Rockwell’s born-again executioner kills the folks who contracted him instead. Not an especially sustainable work model, professionally speaking (it’s murder on word-of-mouth, for starters), but then, this fixer is ready to make some changes in his own life, maybe even find romance with an on-the-rebound Anna Kendrick — which is where Max Landis’ ultra-cutesy script picks up, asking whether a character like that can find and sustain love … or else die trying. For about a decade after “Pulp Fiction,” such quirky hit-man comedies were all the rage, though in the post-“Gigli” era, (the eerily similar) “Mr. Right” just feels wrong.

That’s not to say audiences won’t appreciate Landis’ winking brand of forced cleverness, which finds a simpatico directorial accomplice in Spanish helmer Paco Cabezas (“Neon Flesh”). Still, this peculiar high-danger romance — which plays like watered-down Elmore Leonard or imitation Tarantino — is a risky retro back-step for an up-and-coming young screenwriter with such hip credits as “Chronicle” and “American Ultra” to his name. Hollywood has a phrase to describe such projects, “execution dependent,” and this one ultimately comes down to attitude and chemistry — and not just Rockwell and Kendrick’s either (though the two affable comic thesps make an adorable couple), but the film’s itself.

Striking an almost cartoonish pose vis-a-vis both love and violence, “Mr. Right” introduces the couple in full-on hyperbole mode, giving each of the characters old-fogey names so that it can subsequently tease them for it. Kendrick plays Martha Agatha, an eager-to-please nester with terrible taste in men who catches her b.f. cheating, and instead of losing her temper, actually allows the cad to propose a threesome. Somewhere across town, Rockwell’s Francis drops by a client’s hotel, pops the woman who’d ordered her husband dead and then dances his way through an ambush overseen by the man who trained him (Tim Roth).

Yes, that’s right, Francis dances: Where his spectacularly clumsy adversaries punch and shoot their problems away, Francis uses tango-style moves to get the better of these goons — not terribly plausible, but a delight to watch, as it’s nearly always Rockwell we see performing his own fight scenes (as opposed to a body double). Both his choreography and Cabezas’ direction lend those sequences a jaunty sort of energy, which the film works overtime to extend to the budding romance between Martha and Francis with slightly more awkward results. After all, she has a proven history of dating creeps, and he’s nothing if not creepy when they first meet — bumping into one another at the end of the condom aisle in a convenience store.

Francis lays on what some would call charm, in an almost classically screwball sense, and Martha relents, agreeing to go on a date. He takes her to New Orleans’ most eccentric location, City Park’s Storyland corner, where they trade precious repartee while ambling among fiberglass sculptures, including the Three Little Pigs and a fire-breathing dragon. Not to be outdone by her setting, costume designer Jillian Ann Kreiner dresses them like contestants in a wackiest wardrobe challenge: He’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt, while she matches an owl-print dress with a top featuring an astronaut riding a unicorn through a rainbow hoop. It’s a wonder the props department didn’t give one an accordion and the other a croquet mallet just to cherry-top the scene.

Somehow, despite all that stylistic frosting, the two actors’ comic flavor still comes through loud and clear. For what might be the first time in his life, Francis decides to be honest, confiding in Martha from the outset that he’s a professional killer. She assumes he’s joking when he says people are trying to kill him, so caught up in her swoony romantic feelings to notice the bullets zipping by her head or to dwell on the fact he ducks out on a date to kickbox someone outside the restaurant. In fact, despite her initial resistance, it’s fair to say that Martha is smitten, which puts the movie in the opposite position of most misunderstanding based situational comedies.

Usually, someone holds a secret (e.g. she’s really a mermaid, he’s really a hit man) far too long and then is faced with the prospect of everything falling apart when the truth comes out. Here, Francis proves to be too candid, and risks losing Martha when she realizes that he wasn’t joking. It’s actually kind of adorable to see the naive expression of Francis’ face when she recoils in horror after witnessing his first execution. “Are you upset because I killed that guy?” he says in his cutesy-wootsiest voice. “How I feel about that guy has nothing to do with how I feel about you.”

Needing some space to process the fact that her ideal guy comes with such a major drawback, Martha hides out with her best friend (Katie Nehra, showing Cameron Diaz comic potential in a small but significant role). Meanwhile, the prospect of losing her is enough of a wake-up call for Francis to swear off killing ever again, though the timing is bad, as every two-bit would-be assassin in New Orleans has been mobilized to take him out — including a pair of wily gangsters (James Ransone and Michael Eklund) with an elaborate plot to use Francis’ reverse-execution strategy to their advantage, convincing those they want eliminated (like big brother Anson Mount) to hire the unhinged fixer. And when that doesn’t go according to plan, they settle for something really stupid and kidnap Martha.

It’s ultimately too much kookiness for one romantic comedy to handle, complete with Roth doing a southern accent and a random RZA cameo thrown in to spice the gumbo. Ultimately, Landis would do well to dial it back in the future, though he’s to be commended for bringing back a certain fleet action-comedy zing, popular in the ’80s and ’90s (never better than in James Cameron’s “True Lies”), with roots that reach all the way to the earliest days of talking cinema (there’s a dash of “The Thin Man” sizzle between Francis and Martha as well). Despite wildly uneven sound mixing, with its bright colors, buoyant pop tunes and lickety-split pacing, the whole experience is almost suffocatingly fun, especially for those who believe Kendrick and Rockwell would make a killer couple.

Toronto Film Review: 'Mr. Right'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Gala Presentations, closer), Sept. 12, 2015. Running time: 93 MIN.

Production: An Amasia Entertainment presentation of a Circle of Confusion, Amasia Entertainment production, in association with 3311 Prods. (International sales: Sierra Affinity, Los Angeles.) Produced by Rick Jacobs, Lawrence Mattis, Michael A. Helfant, Bradley Gallo. Executive producers, Stephen Emery, Max Landis, Avram Butch Kaplan, William C. Gallo, Allen Church, Mark Roberts, Jennifer Dana, Ross Jacobson, Sheldon Rabinowitz.

Crew: Directed by Paco Cabezas. Screenplay, Max Landis. Camera (color), Daniel Aranyo; editor, Tom Wilson; music, Aaron Zigman; music supervisors, Maureen Crowe, David A. Helfant; production designer, Mara Lepere-Schloop; costume designer, Jillian Ann Kreiner; sound, Jonathan Wales; supervising sound editor, Steven Iba; visual effects supervisors, Rik Shorten; visual effects, DBL VFX, Wildfire; fight coordinator, James Lew; stunt coordinator, Kevin Beard; assistant director, Jacques Terblanche; casting, Orly Sitowitz.

With: Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick, Tim Roth, James Ransone, Anson Mount, Michael Eklund, Katie Nehra, RZA.

More Film

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" in

    Writers Guild Makes It Official: This Is the Most Wide-Open Oscars Race Ever

    For the record, we’re in uncharted territory this Oscar season. While we still have the costume designers’ ceremony to get through on Tuesday, the Writers Guild Awards put a bow on the major guild kudos circuit Sunday night. The results have yielded what is, unequivocally, the most wide-open Oscar field in history. More Reviews Sundance [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Oscars Placeholder

    Make-Up and Hair Stylist Guild Applauds Academy's Stance on Airing Every Oscar Winner

    Rowdy boos were followed by triumphant cheers at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles, as the Hollywood union touched on a week of controversy over a reversed decision to hand out four Oscars during the show’s commercial breaks. Hair and makeup was one of the four categories that would [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content