'A Stand Up Guy': Film Review

A third-rate mobster becomes an insult comic.

It takes nerve to direct a second film after a debut like My Man Is a Loser, a critically panned bomb that hung its hopes on a big-screen acting turn by John Stamos. But it takes nerve to do a lot of things that don't merit doing, and Mike Young's A Stand Up Guy certainly is one of those things: A shockingly unfunny movie about a gangster who sets the world on fire with his ostensible comedic gifts, it lands with a thud and, despite a couple of recognizable names in the cast, will perform at the box office like a sweaty stand-up tapping a mike and asking, "Is this thing on?"

Danny A. Abackaser plays one of the least-likeable protagonists in recent memory, a Brooklyn swindler named Sammy who gets planted "somewhere in Wisconsin" by the witness protection program. Renamed Derek Hesh by the feds, he winds up performing at an open-mike to impress a local barmaid (Annie Heise's Vicky). He does what comes naturally, which is spout third-rate insult comedy at nearby bar patrons, and the yokels eat it up. "Did Dice Clay and George Lopez have a baby?" someone asks. That's meant as a compliment.

While Young's script plays a "which is less convincing?" game, tracking the quick rise of Sammy's comedy career, his just-add-water romance with Vicky and the pathos of his need to spend time with an estranged daughter, a couple of NYC hoods set out to track Sammy down before he can testify against their boss. They cross paths with lawmen played by Ethan Suplee and Michael Rapaport — the latter of whom must be a friend of the director, as he also co-starred in Young's debut, and here doesn't balk at delivering idiotic faux-folksy lines like, "I got an inkling stronger than a redneck with a pale wife" and "It's more confusin' than a crossword puzzle on a blind man's Tuesday."

The only member of the cast who just about survives with his dignity is Mad Men's Jay Ferguson, who, as the head of a biker gang, gets to affect a deadpan disdain for the stupid posturing around him. Everyone else involved should be busy investigating whether the Screen Actors Guild has its own version of the government's new-identity program.

Distributor: The Orchard
Production company: 2B Films
Cast: Danny A. Abeckaser, Annie Heise, Nick Cordero, Luke Robertson, Jay Ferguson, Ethan Suplee, Michael Rapaport, Bob Saget
Director-screenwriter: Mike Young
Producers: Danny A. Abeckaser, Ilan Arboleda, Vince P. Maggio
Executive producers: Isaac Gindi, Eddie Gindi
Director of photography: Daniele Napolitano
Production designer: John El Manahi
Costume designer: Nicole Tobolski
Editor: Frank Reynolds
Composer: MJ Mynarski
Casting director: Kate Lacey

Not rated, 80 minutes

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