The Darwin Awards

Director: Finn Taylor

Defined online and in reviews for writer/director Finn Taylor's most recent celebration of eccentricity, “The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally kill themselves in really stupid ways.” A bizarre premise for a comedy, no doubt but one that’s unexpectedly and surprisingly entertaining and not nearly as mean-spirited as the idea of the awards themselves as we meet our main character, Michael Burrows (Joseph Feinnes), a San Francisco Police Department forensic detective who faints at the sight of blood and finds himself kicked off the force after the “North Beach Killer” (Tim Blake Nelson) escapes in his custody. With an annoying mostly off-screen film student documenting his every move and preoccupied with finding something new to obsess over, the highly cautious Burrows (who Monk fans will instantly find themselves drawn in by) begins compiling detailed information about the various Darwin winners. He applies for work at an insurance office and is given a thirty day trial assignment, traveling along with tough, skeptical insurance claims inverstigator Siri (Winona Ryder) to look at some of the more ridiculous deaths in order to identify the “X factor” to try and prevent more Darwin accidents from occurring. Surprisingly involving and ultimately about trying to ignore risk and live life to the fullest, it’s easy to get hooked from the opening minutes. Filled with witty dialogue and off-the-wall humor that those familiar with Taylor’s work (Dream With Fishes, Cherish) will instantly recognize, Taylor regulars and excellent supporting players turn up for bit parts including David Arquette, Josh Charles, Judah Friedlander, Lukas Haas, Juliette Lewis, Julianna Marguiles, Alessandro Nivola, Chris Penn (sadly in his last screen role), D.B. Sweeney, Robin Tunney, rockers Metallica and legendary Beat poet and City Lights bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti.