‘Hit by Lightning’: Film Review

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures
Love and murder make unconvincing bedfellows

Nebbish meets femme fatale in a comedy starring Jon Cryer

Thanks to Jon Cryer’s likable-schlemiel shtick, a lost-cause rom-com is more watchable than it has any right to be. But that’s not enough to make Hit by Lightning remotely involving. Writer-director Ricky Blitt attempts to riff on the conventions of the romantic comedy and the thriller. His concoction, the story of a milquetoast whose dream date lures him into a murderous scheme, is a flat, awkward mashup that grows ever more ridiculous. There’s no box-office lightning on the horizon for the day-and-date theatrical/VOD release.

Cryer plays Ricky Miller, a bachelor in his 40s who leads a life as drab as the chain restaurant where he works as a manager. His best friend, accountant Seth (Will Sasso), is full of bluster, but his days and nights are as uninspired as Ricky’s. In stock parts, the two actors use their comic timing to generate a certain chemistry.

After a former classmate’s wedding, Ricky is keenly aware that they’re the last two guys from their high-school class who have yet to marry. So he takes the leap, signing up for the dating website whose TV ads (one of the better spoof elements of the movie) he usually curses. He gets one response, from a knockout named Danita (Stephanie Szostak) who falls for him on their first date — a little too hard, according to the skeptical Seth.

Certain that she’s got nefarious ulterior motives, Seth is proven right when Danita a) turns out to be married and b) asks Ricky to help her kill her husband, Ben (Jed Rees, whose unconvincing performance is at least a match for Szostak’s). That Ben is a famous crime novelist and Ricky a lapsed writer lends a smidgen of sizzle before the story drops all pretense of mattering.

Whether Ben is truly the monster that Danita claims is the movie’s supposedly burning question. Seth amps his warnings by insisting that Ricky watch Body Heat. The screenplay is filled with such movie-geek references, and their abundance would prove annoying if they weren’t welcome diversions from the boneheaded business at hand. Ricky and Danita are both Albert Brooks fans (it’s hard to find fault with a shout-out to Lost in America) and don’t like Inception (again, who can argue?).

The movie citations are also the only parts of Lightning that carry any sense of conviction. The romance and suspense would be strained, if they had more energy. Blitt, who created the sitcom Romantically Challenged and has written for Family Guy, as well as scripting the framing skit for Movie 43 (one of the film’s few bearable elements), builds his ludicrous story from sitcom setups laced with too-racy-for-network dialogue.

After a few minutes of Los Angeles exteriors, the production segues to Ottawa for a bland rendition of SoCal. There’s nothing cinematic about the feature, although production designer Lisa Soper gets the right mix of dare-not-disturb-the-universe in Ricky’s dull apartment. The nearly wall-to-wall music score is unhelpful — but, tellingly, it includes songs by producer Chantal Chamandy, who also has a small role as Seth’s love interest.

Production company: Chantal Chamandy Entertainment
Cast: Jon Cryer, Stephanie Szostak, Will Sasso, Jed Rees, Chantal Chamandy
Director: Ricky Blitt
Screenwriter: Ricky Blitt
Producer: Chantal Chamandy
Executive producers: Michael Ades, J.B. Rogers
Director of photography: Arthur E. Cooper
Production designer: Lisa Soper
Costume designer: Jennifer Stroud
Editor: Simon Webb
Composers: Chantal Chamandy, Joel Campbell
Casting director: Ginette D'Amico

No rating, 90 minutes