Sunday, July 05, 2009

JSFF: Remarkable Power

Jack West is a burnt-out late night talk show host, who no longer really cares if his show entertains anyone else. Essentially, he is David Letterman without the creepy underage sex jokes. At least he goes out with a bang when he finally gets his network pink-slip in Brandon Beckner’s Remarkable Power! (trailer here), which screens at the upcoming Jersey Shore Film Festival.

West’s wife has been having an affair with Doug Wade, a popular player for the L.A. Dodgers. On his final show, West broadcasts videotape of them in the act, while interviewing the World Series MVP, with his wife in the audience. Shortly thereafter, the police discover West’s dead body and naturally go looking for Wade, who had just threatened the talk show host on nationally television.

Somehow, the West-Wade affair is connected to the Russian mob and a pair of would-be porn actors. The unemployed Ross stumbles into the plot when he recognizes Preston, an actor from an infomercial for Remarkable Power, the self-help scam he fell for hook, line, and sinker. Determining Ross is a loser nobody will miss, Preston lures him back to his home with the intent of murdering him. However, Ross accidentally kills his attacker in self-defense.

Then things get really complicated, as Ross tries to pass himself off as a friend of Preston’s to impress Candy, one of his porn colleagues. Meanwhile, the body has mysteriously disappeared, but not before a slovenly private detective and the proprietor of a crime scene photography website get wind of his murder. Of course, everything is connected, and the audience can expect plenty of twists and turns.

Beckner and co-writer-producer Scott Sampila penned a reasonably credible caper story, but their Tarantino-esque combination of the lurid and the quirky often feels forced. However, there are some nice chuckles in the film, particularly from Kevin Nealon’s dry comedic turn as the world-weary West. Christopher Titus is also spot-on as J.P. Zahn, the Remarkable Power huckster and fantasy mentor to the clueless Ross. Tom Arnold basically does his usual shtick as the sleazy P.I., but at least he brings energy to the film.

Though nothing extraordinary, Remarkable is diverting enough film, with about as many laughs as the average Hollywood comedy. While it has played extensively on the festival circuit, Beckner’s film might ultimately prove too idiosyncratic for mainstream audiences and too commercial for the indie scene. After winning Best Feature Film Honors at last year’s ACE Film Festival, Remarkable screens again in the Tri-State region at the JSFF on July 9th, 16th, and 17th.