DVD Review: The Big Take (2018)

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Set in and around Hollywood, this darkly comedic crime caper from first time writer/director Justin Daly is filled with misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and a mean spirited homophobic opening gambit that damn near derails the entire movie.

After veteran movie star Douglas Brown (James McCaffrey) turns down a pitch from Vic (Slate Holmgren), an aspiring producer who'd cornered the man in an elevator, the vengeful bully Vic drugs the man’s drink.

Taken advantage of a second time within a matter of minutes by a second stranger, whom the film later dubs "a transvestite," Brown’s offscreen encounter is caught on a security video which is intercepted by Vic, who decides to blackmail the actor who’s been roofied and assaulted for the two hundred thousand dollar budget of the independent film he’s making with his friend, Max.

A writer/director who’s told by Vic that Brown is their new hush hush, anonymous angel investor, Max (Ebbon Moss-Bachrach) is implicated in the crime by the ruthless Vic who handwrites the blackmail letter on the title/contact page of Max’s typewritten script, which sends the thugs hired by Brown's agent, Jack (Bill Sage) right to the home that Max shares with his Ukrainian wife, Oxana (Oksana Lada).

From Dan Hedaya's amusingly named Frank Manascalpo to ZoĆ« Bell’s hit woman for hire Edie, the meek Max and his perpetually dancing wife Oxana prove to be up to the task at fending off the attackers with golf clubs and fire extinguishers. But even after they go to the police to try to tell their side of the story to Robert Forster’s West Hollywood Detective Aborn, the insanity doesn't stop.

Apparently not understanding how the viewer is supposed to just laugh and look past at the very least an implied sexual assault (if not rape) as well as the decision to balance the film on that one inciting incident, the D-level Elmore Leonard/Quentin Tarantino knockoff characters don't inspire much confidence in Daly’s ability to think outside the box as a writer.

However, the cast (among them Tarantino vets Forster and Bell) help add some validity to the work, as do a few of Daly's directorial decisions, including some intriguing juxtapositions as well as – working in tandem with the film's editor Josiah Signor – the stylish painterly transitions that fill your screen with solid colors to help lead us from one big emotional moment to the next.

Regrettably, the film’s music department doesn't know how to handle these changes – opting to give us a headache with the over reliance of screaming metal in lieu of some terrific reggae numbers that become an audible representation of Oxana (one of the more interesting characters in the film and woefully under used).

Fortunately, Girls star Moss-Bachrach is a fine lead and helps give the film a bit more humanity than it actually deserves. Taking for granted the fact that we'd somehow all find it funny that a man gets taken advantage of in a way they never clarify and therefore makes us fear the worst, The Big Take gets a bit better the further it advances from its appalling beginning.

However, merely watchable at best, this ultimately tone deaf indie play on The Player and Get Shorty marks an inauspicious filmmaking debut from the grandson of industry goddess, Ingrid Bergman.

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