Movie Reviews: 79 Parts (2019)

Sorry I’ve been away from the wheel for a while when it comes to reviewing films.  It’s not that I haven’t been watching films in theaters, it’s just that I couldn’t be arsed.  However, we here at The Avocado were offered another chance to review a film before its release.  It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up the chance on even if once again it was one I was nervous about tackling.

Today’s film premiered nearly three years ago at the SoHo International Film Festival (where it won the festivals Audience Award), but it is only just now receiving a release.  Curiously, the film appears to have two IMDB pages with slightly different names (or at least use of punctuation) and years of release, something I’ve never seen before.  79 Parts comes to us from director Ari Taub (The Fallen) and while it promises performances from the prolific Eric Roberts, Tony Lo Bianco, The Sopranos‘ Katherine Narducci and Sandra Bernhard, their roles (especially Roberts and Bernhard who get maybe two scenes a piece) are in classic DTV tradition, reduced to minor supporting roles in favor of the unknowns who lead the cast.

Set in 1979 Brooklyn, the movie primarily focuses on two major characters.  The first being, Dennis Slattery, an Irishman done in for driving (gonna assume it refers to stealing) cars.  He now runs a chop show owned by his crime boss father-in-law.  the second lead is Jack Anderson, a broke law student (and former artist) who became one after his father was apparently wrongfully imprisoned.  He’s also a virgin, a fact which is endlessly repeated by the film.  From there, the story weaves in countless overlapping storylines involving other criminal elements, cops, and more.  It all comes across as a more cartoonish Guy Ritchie even down to the over-the-top names and intros.

For those of you curious just what I mean by “more cartoonish” since Ritchie’s films are pretty well along that path as it is for better (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch) or worse (anything else he’s touched but namely Revolver), 79 Parts exists in almost a fantasy world.  There’re prevalent hippies, a hubcap on a string used as bait which may be ineffective but doesn’t seem to register in film as an idiotic trap, the ridiculously bouncy music, some pointless and cheesy graphics, a legit record scratch, and the minor characters who seem absolutely insane.  The acting isn’t exactly great throughout, but when it comes to these countless world fillers, the film really strains from their almost alien behavior.

There’s a mugging homeless man who seems to have learned acting from Chop Top’s introduction in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and the hookers who are almost a parody of a parody with their stereotypical dress and behavior.  Most egregiously and unforgivably though is the transvestite/trans (the film doesn’t take the time to establish which) hooker whose existence is entirely for a joke at the expense of how obviously they are a man.  My first thought went to a specific late period South Park episode, except somehow even worse.  It’s the kind of gay panic joke that feels straight out of the era it is set in (not that they have gone away).

As far as the plot goes, it’s a standard Ritchie style one where all the disparate plot lines eventually build to one final conclusion, simple plans undone by a combination of bad luck, stupidity, and hidden character connections.  There’s nothing inherently wrong about this format even if it is overdone as a well-crafted title gets by on mashing up interesting characters and watching them try to deal with all the crap life throws at them, usually deservedly, before the conclusion ties it all up neatly and makes that complex plotting feel neat.  79 Parts does mostly get the plotting to feel complete and understandable, but it falls down at that first hurdle.

Jack is a complete idiot with a propensity for saying dumb things to everyone, but Ryan O’Callaghan plays him with a constantly blank look on his face and the film forgets to make him sympathetic.  He’s a completely passive character dominated by his obnoxious friend (who does a B-rate Ken Marino) who drags him into bad situation after bad situation mostly with his gambling on tips at the racetrack.  The film never really establishes why they are friends aside from the very real possibility that no one else would be willing to tolerate them.  Aidan Redmond is fine at Dennis (and aside from Eric Roberts, the one who most exudes professional actor), but the film doesn’t go any further in making him a cool and interesting character besides slapping on an Irish accent.  His relationship with his girlfriend is rote and they lack any sort of chemistry, but they certainly aren’t helped by O’Callaghan and the way the film struggles to write his character in to complicate the situation.

The movie is shot entirely in 16mm film, but it never gives the film a distinctive look.  The camera work should be stylish in a film like this, but it’s pedestrian at best with a number of odd choices for camera angles and a very visible lack of smoothness.  By the end, the film has cut down on many of the wackiest elements, moving more from pure comedy towards the action-comedy promised by the premise, but it still can’t deliver on either element.  The action elements are barely there, show the budget, and lack excitement, while the comedy never succeeds.  It’s not a game-ender to have unlikable characters in a film like this, uninteresting ones on the other hand is with the movie resorting to repeating the name of a specific character as if the mere suggestion of their nickname and style is enough.    The multiple narration style is far too smug about its own cleverness without earning it, failing to disguise its use as a crutch.  I really wanted to like the film as a fun, low-budget title, but I just couldn’t.

79 Parts is available on VOD on May 7th