Sunday, September 04, 2011

Pitch Hard: Brother’s Justice

Dax Shepard thinks he’s famous. You are supposed to recognize him from films like Employee of the Month and more likely NBC’s Parenthood. However, Shepard is about to throw a curve ball to those who might be fans, giving up comedy to become a martial arts superstar. His transformative vehicle will chronicle the Justice Brothers’ fight against a vicious crystal meth-dealing biker gang, or something like that. This dubious project will be pitched many times in Brother’s Justice (trailer here), a mockumentary of the film-within-a-film’s early development, or lack thereof, which has its belated New York opening this Friday as part of a showcase of Tribeca distributed films.

Shepard picks his indulgent friend Nate Tuck to produce his proposed Brother’s Justice, securing his agreement to split all the development costs. Given the industry’s interest in the project, this will probably only involve a few trips to Starbuck’s. Yet, Shepard plugs on, trying to call in favors with the big names he knows, including the likes of Jon Favreau and Ashton Kutcher, playing themselves in guest appearances (as well as one surprise saved for the post-closing credits stinger). Tom Arnold however, has a major supporting role as himself, promising to pitch the film to his pal James Cameron, in return for a part (opinions vary as to which it should be).

Essentially, Justice is sort of a more Hollywood-centric version of Eric Schaeffer and Donal Lardner Ward’s My Life’s in Turnaround and its pseudo-sequel, while still allowing Bradley Cooper and David Koechner an opportunity to slum it up in an indie in between their Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips comedies. In fact, they are both very funny in two extended centerpiece sequences, constituting considerably more than mere cameo walk-ons.

Frankly, Shepard is not the most charismatic screen presence and I knew far more martial arts at thirteen than he ever will (which is all part of the joke). Still, he establishes some decent bromantic chemistry with Tuck, while convincing his famous friends to ham it up like nobody’s business. Arnold in particular, seemed to require little prompting in this regard. Perhaps the closest analogs to Justice are old school Burt Reynolds films, in which viewers are supposed to appreciate how much fun he and Dom DeLuise had making them. Believe it or not, that makes for a pleasant weekend afternoon Netflix streaming (where it is already available).

Throughout Justice, Shepard takes plenty of shots at Hollywood business practices, but nothing so pointed that it might jeopardize his career (real or fictional). It is not The Player, but it has some clever moments. Though interested viewers can stay at home and watch it, Justice also kicks off a weeklong run this Friday (9/9) at the Tribeca Cinemas.