Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Mike Boy: Conspiracies, Prophesies, and Bogus 1st Editions

Conspiracy theories are the secular religion of our time, so it makes sense they would produce their equivalent of the messiah. It turns out the put-upon waiter at an Egyptian restaurant is the prophesized one, or whatever. Of course, he has no idea what that means, but it is not clear screenwriter-director Hamzah Tarzan knows either, judging from Mike Boy (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

Mike Boy is such a doormat, the hostess of his restaurant even shorts him on tips. He grew up an orphan, so he is understandably psyched when his bossy girlfriend Charlotte (she prefers to be called Lara) gives him a first edition of Oliver Twist (it turns out it was a flimsy tradepaperback published by Penguin. Who knew?). It wasn’t such a big deal for her because her father is an antiquarian bookseller, whose expertise might just factor into the caper later.

Shortly after an old Sopranos-looking gentleman spies Boy’s horse pendant, “Agent Chris” pays him a visit. Supposedly, two shadowy cabals have been secretly waging war for global domination. According to prophesy, Boy is the vengeance-seeker with the Andalusian horse necklace who will help Chris’s faction, the D’s, permanently overcome the Russian Mobbed-up Two Bones. To avenge his murdered mother and fulfill his destiny, Boy will have to complete a series of baffling transactions by midnight.

Okay, so far, so good, even though it takes the film way too long to get to this point. Unfortunately, what follows is a series of meaningless exchanges of one package for another, with instructions of where to go next. Naturally, the Two Bones are following along behind him, killing the parties to his obscure dealings, even though they should be more prepared, considering they understand what is going on better than Boy does.

Everyone digs a good conspiracy theory, so we all come into MB primed for a climatic showdown in its Masonic Lodge from Hell. Regrettably, Tarzan never pulls back to give us a more macro view of the secret history afoot. Instead, the film starts to feel like an especially dull episode of Deal or No Deal, as Boy keeps trading one generically ominous package for another.

Hugh Massey is not bad in the title role, but he has zero chemistry with Emily Killian’s Charlotte/Lara. The supporting cast is genuinely colorful, but most of them seem confused about their characters and motivations—like we can blame them. More fundamentally problematic, the film doesn’t move along briskly enough for a paranoid thriller.

The best films in this subgenre regularly reward us with shocking revelations, but for every answer they introduce several new mysteries. Tarzan rather maddeningly keeps everything in a black box. Ultimately, that means none of it has any meaning. It is memorably weird in spots, but that hardly makes Mike Boy worth recommending when it opens this Friday (9/1) in Los Angeles, at the Laemmle Music Hall.