'Moonwalkers': SXSW Review

Courtesy of SXSW
A raucous but not very compelling tale of high-stakes incompetence

A drug-addled riff on the old "Kubrick faked the moon landing" conspiracy theory

An old tinfoil-hat theory has it that Apollo 11 never landed on the moon — that Stanley Kubrick faked it for us, ensuring America's victory in its race with the Ruskies. Making that goofy notion a whole lot goofier is Moonwalkers, in which an American special-ops goon (Ron Perlman) accidentally hires not the auteur but a stoned impersonator for the job, resulting in a lunar fiasco even bigger than that time French astronauts shot a rocket into the Man in the Moon's eye. Antoine Bardou Jacquet's debut wears its Guy Ritchie influence on its sleeves, but its mayhem doesn't crackle as Ritchie's early films did. Perlman and costar Rupert Grint (and Kubrick's long coattails) will help draw attention to the pic, which was picked up here by Alchemy, but theatrical prospects are slight.

Grint's Johnny is a flailing band manager in '60s London, struggling to get a hippie-rock group off the ground in time to repay the seed money borrowed from a shark called "The Ironmonger." Kidman, Perlman's U.S. operative, has been sent to London to hire Kubrick just in case something keeps the actual Apollo mission from landing. Mistaking Johnny for Kubrick's manager, Kidman makes the pitch to him. Desperate for that suitcase full of cash, Johnny enlists his hirsute roommate Leon (Robert Sheehan) to impersonate the director just long enough to make off with the money.

Kidman may be suffering the occasional nightmarish flashback to atrocities he committed in 'Nam, but that doesn't keep him from tracking down the thieves once he gets what has happened. When the dust settles, he and Johnny have hatched a new plan to make the film with Renatus (Tom Audenaert), an experimental filmmaker whose sex-and-drugs commune looks like the bastard child of Warhol's Factory and a Roman orgy.

Too much faith has been put in the comic value of Dean Craig's screenplay, which offers plenty of mishaps and shocking violent outbursts, but not so many laughs. Aside from a look at Renatus's pretentiously goofy most recent film, the funniest thing here is the most predictable scene, a sequence in which crew-cut, all-business Kidman gets dosed with acid. For a moment, Johnny turns into the grown-up of the bunch — a terrifying prospect for a plan that was counting on having a perfectionist cinematic genius at the helm.

Production company: Partizan Films
Cast: Ron Perlman, Rupert Grint, Robert Sheehan, Stephen Campbell Moore, Eric Lampaert, Kevin Bishop, Tom Audenaert, Erika Sainte
Director: Antoine Bardou Jacquet
Screenwriter: Dean Craig
Producer: Georges Bermann
Director of photography: Glynn Speeckaert
Production designers: Patrick Dechesne, Alain-Pascal Housiaux
Costume designers: Agnes Dubois, Christophe Pidre
Editors: Bill Smedley, Chris Gill
Music: Kasper Winding, Alex Gopher
Casting director: Gail Stevens
Sales: Kinology

No rating, 96 minutes