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Big Gold Brick is currently available for VOD rental.

DIRECTED BY: Brian Petsos

FEATURING: , , , Lucy Hale,

PLOT: After smashing his car into a suicidal scribe, the driver hires the writer as his biographer.

COMMENTS: This film left me with a weight in my heart. A weight of approximately 313 pounds per cubic foot, when it had aspirations of four times that. To the science-y types amongst you, this clumsy metaphor will come across as modestly clever, albeit markedly pertinent. Big Gold Brick, a recent addition to the Hipster-Com-Core genre (“too”-clever, “too”-stylized mysterious-esque films), has the veneer of a shiny new bauble to be melted down and enjoyed: a cryptical client, ironic soundtrack, eccentrics over every shoulder, and a splintered protagonist. It is only around the half-way juncture that Brian Petsos’ feature debut lets slip that it’s faking it—because its key element is missing.

Samuel is, for reasons of various legitimacy, on the cusp of suicide. His first instincts, kicking into furious gear in an opening montage of heavy drinking and light mess-making, spur him to abandon his apartment (owing five months back rent, no less; that West Coast Sam ain’t got nothin’ on this guy), and travel by bus to “Rockchester,” carrying nothing but his typewriter and his crumpled suicide note. From the station, Samuel walks into on-coming traffic in time for Floyd (Andy Garcia) to aspirate some tasty frozen custard while driving his Cadillac. For surly Sam, a crash, a hospital stay, some possible brain damage, and an offer of a writing gig; for Floyd, the shaggy-dog-story-teller in this shaggy-dog movie, a chance for some validation after a life of near-misses.

“Near miss.” Now that would have been an efficient way to describe Big Gold Brick. But seeing as Petsos takes the long way around, I return the favor. The fact of the matter is, it almost works, largely because of the secondary lead. Andy Garcia’s turn as an ex-military “plastics, lenses, and lasers” scientist is both quirky and endearing. Floyd is a delight, as are the bizarre sequences sloshed around with tasteful abandon. Some are mundanely surreal, as when Floyd is talking with the brain specialist at the hospital. The good doctor lights a cigarette, prompting Floyd to inquire, “Can you smoke here?,” to which the doctor takes a puff and nonchalantly replies, “No, you can’t.” Others are sudden, literal, bursts: Floyd (and an unlucky co-worker) discover that the gun actually does function, despite suspicions otherwise.

Megan Fox makes the most of it in her turn as sex-vixen lawyer wife. Lucy Hale is believably spiky and fragile as the cocaine-pixie-dream-girl. And Oscar Isaac lovingly chomps through every Austrian-accented, hyper-limping, bearded corporate crime lord moment as Anselm Vogelweide. The improbable wash nearly carries the film, except, unfortunately, for another casting choice. The lead. I know from Lords of Chaos that Emory Cohen can be very convincing. But surrounded by this cast of weirdos, his bumbling mannerisms and unconvincing narration fall flatter than a pancake on a sheet of drywall.

Big Gold Brick‘s current abysmal rating of 3.4 on IMDb is undeserved. Except, of course, if one bears in mind what this might have been.


“…begins as a tragedy before veering into a wild, outrageously funny and unashamedly bizarre ride… a bold, wildly entertaining and provocative trip down the rabbit hole. It deserves to become a cult classic in the vein of Donnie Darko.”–Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru (contemporaneous)





FEATURING:  Mark Polish, Dianna Agron, , Justin Bartha

PLOT: Chandler, a medically enhanced superspy on a mission,  falls into a coma and his wife Tess tries to bail him out.

Still from Against the Clock (2019)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: This is art-house wannabe fodder for the hypothetical and stereotyped millennial audience who eat a bowl of sugar-frosted molly every morning for breakfast. It is strange by the measure of misguided and incompetent work, but true “weird” should be an intentional choice.

COMMENTS: I’ve gotten in trouble on this site for reviews like Breakfast of Champions and The God Inside My Ear, so I’m going to clearly ask up front: take Uncle Pete’s word for it and have faith in me this time. Against the Clock is not, again, not a movie. It is a tragically aborted fetus that came close to showing vital signs, but went wrong. What went wrong was a special effects team, fresh off an online Adobe Premier Pro course, who masturbated furiously all over the film with strobe-light-paced jump-cut CGI scored to literally every noise from a stock sound effect CD, followed by a director who subsequently fed the film stock through a wood-chipper until it was confetti and glued it back together with flypaper strips. With these chaotic monkeys turned loose on the production, the attempted movie has no room left for story, characters, dialogue, or a cubic centimeter of breathable oxygen in which to make clear its artistic statement. Picture Max Headroom on cocaine, turned loose with a camera for 100 minutes in the seedy side of The Matrix.

If you thought Oliver Stone’s style in Natural Born Killers wasn’t hyper enough, if Run, Lola, Run stressed your attention span, or if you felt The Wall just did not indulge itself in enough psychedelic show-offs, then get ready to put on your boogie pants and dance. Not to compare Against the Clock to those greater efforts; those works use trippy imagery and sugar-rush effects as tasteful seasonings on a competent recipe. Against the Clock unscrews the cap and dumps in the whole bottle.

Nevertheless, if you take the movie at its own terms and approach it with the right frame of mind, it does have some kind of artistic vision. But once you’ve become used to an experience that’s like viewing a pinball machine from inside the ball while the bumpers and flippers whack it around—and taken enough Dramamine not to barf—the movie’s novelty wears off. Rather than amping me up, the ADHD editing has the opposite effect: it lulls me into a relaxing daze, like watching a fireplace. This movie would make a pretty screensaver. It even held my cat’s attention for a record ten minutes before he wisely curled up in an adjacent chair for nap time, an option I envied as I contemplated running a Monster energy drink through my Continue reading CAPSULE: AGAINST THE CLOCK (2019)