16 July 2011
2011, 80mins, NR
Director (s): David Palmer, Dax Shepard
Writer: Dax Shepard
Cast includes: Dax Shepard, Nate Tuck, Tom Arnold, Bradley Cooper, David Koechner
UK Release Date: TBC
I’m not sure why Dax Shepard decided to make “Brother’s Justice”, the bit-part comic’s fake documentary about his trying to become a martial arts action star. Maybe he just wanted an “I’m Still Here” to call his own, although no viewer will be arguing about this project’s authenticity after the final credits roll. Shepard has designed “Brother’s Justice” to play purely for laughs, gently riffing on bruised Hollywood egos, absurd pet projects and the ignorance that regularly accompanies fame. All of these themes were admittedly used better in Ben Stiller’s “Tropic Thunder”, but that’s not to say “Brother’s Justice” doesn’t have enough laughs to deem it rental worthy.
Dax Shepard is sick of being a comedian. Tired of playing second fiddle to the likes of Dane Cook and Tina Fey in his movies, Dax decides to strike out and craft a career as a bona fide kung fu superstar. The film he intends to make is called “Brother’s Justice”, casting himself in the leading role, with doubting best friend Nate Tuck roped in to produce. Together they unsuccessfully shop the idea around Hollywood, finding yawns and disbelieving stares everywhere they go. Dax’s celebrity acquaintances aren’t much use either, with everyone from Tom Arnold to Bradley Cooper doing more damage than good.
“Brother’s Justice” just about holds together for its brief 80 minute runtime, providing a short but very digestible dosage of ridiculous comedy. Shepard doesn’t make many fresh points during the course of the movie (he paints himself as deluded, self-important and homophobic throughout); instead beating on the same satirical doors that have already served dozens of other lampoons. However there’s a true commitment to silliness here that can’t be faulted, Shepard unafraid to make himself or anyone else look like a fool in pursuit of laughs. There are at least three very funny sequences in “Brother’s Justice”, Shepard’s knack for sly improvisations helping to sate audience desire for giggles during the dryer patches. Ultimately I found “Brother’s Justice” to be a moderately entertaining and totally tolerable experience. It’s uneven and unoriginal, but it’s got chutzpah to burn.
Aesthetically the movie adopts a low-fi vibe (in an attempt to concoct the illusion of reality), only breaking from handheld camera work during occasional trailers (“Tropic Thunder” again?) for other stories Shepard is trying to make. Bar the very last of these (entitled “Jeung Guns”) none really work, they’re overproduced and generally unfunny. I expect these were added late in production to beef up the final product, but there was really no need, they add little to the sense of fun permeating from the picture. It’s also worth noting that the quality of acting varies wildly throughout. Many of the producers and agents Dax meets with don’t convince at all (and that includes buddy Nate Tuck), but the stars featured tend to fare better. Tom Arnold is erratic, but Bradley Cooper leaves an impression whilst Shepard himself deserves at least mild kudos. I wouldn’t necessarily demand people seek out “Brother’s Justice”, but it represents an amiable enough way to fill your time.
A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011