'Ron Goossens, Low-Budget Stuntman': Film Review | Oldenburg 2017
An alcoholic daredevil becomes an unlikely national hero in this cheerfully crass Dutch comedy.
A deceptively smart film about proudly stupid people, Ron Goossens, Low-Budget Stuntman is the latest homegrown hit from Dutch writer-director team Steffen Haars and Flip van der Kuil. The duo are best known in northern Europe for their TV comedy series New Kids, which spawned two big-screen spinoffs and scored significant success abroad, notably in Germany. Their default comic style is loud, lewd and knowingly crude, but leavened with sharp production values and thick dollops of irony.
More conventionally plotted and less culturally specific than the pair's previous films, Ron Goossens could help them break out into English-speaking markets with the right kind of targeted pitch. Remake potential is also an option: The title and main character already feel like a Will Ferrell vehicle in waiting, while the booze-fueled action sequences should appeal to fans of amateur stunt shows like Jackass. Following its German premiere last week at the Oldenburg International Film Festival, this slick slapstick caper makes its U.S debut this weekend at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, where Haars and van der Kuil are regulars.
Tim Haars, brother of co-director Steffen, gives an enjoyably lugubrious deadpan performance as Goossens, a small-town alcoholic loser with a fondness for attempting dangerous stunts when he is blind drunk, which is most of the time. After one of his failed car jumps becomes an internet sensation, elevating Ron to ironic-moronic folk-hero status, he is recruited by enterprisingly sleazy agent Berrie (Michiel Romeyn) to work as a cut-price stuntman in the impoverished Dutch movie industry. His off-target falls, bruising fights and rib-cracking car crashes are all the more impressively staged for their apparent drunken amateurism. It takes real professionalism to look this unprofessional.
But even as his fame takes off, something is rotten in the Goossens household. Bored with his incessant boozing, Ron's pregnant wife Angela (Maartje van de Wetering) is sleeping around with all of his drinking buddies, cruelly threatening to end their relationship and abort the child. She gives Ron an arbitrary task to prove his love: If he can seduce sexy Dutch screen queen Bo Maertens (playing herself as a haughty diva) then he will prove himself worthy of Angela, thereby saving the marriage. It feels like a Mission: Impossible, not least because Bo is a teetotaler and violently averse to Ron's perpetually inebriated, vulgarian charms. But he makes a valiant effort all the same, learning some vital lessons in self-respect along the way.
Zippy and cartoonish, Ron Goossens clocks in at a lean 78 minutes. This brisk pacing keeps the jokes snappy but feels a little rushed during the third act, especially considering that crisp running time includes an extended post-credits sequence and several cheesy musical numbers by Dennie Christian, a mullet-haired German schlager-pop singer who enjoyed David Hasselhoff-like success in the 1970s and 1980s. The in-joke reference may be parochial, but the self-mocking tone strikes a universal chord. Likewise multiple cameos by famous faces from the Dutch film scene will pass non-native viewers by, but the gist of the joke is obvious. Most are sportingly satirizing themselves in the manner of the Ricky Gervais TV series Extras.
Ron Goossens is packed with quickfire gags both verbal and visual. Indeed, there is more than enough material here for Haars and van der Kuil to ditch the casual racism, misogyny and homophobia that serve as lazy fallbacks in their adolescent bro-humor arsenal. Such uncouth lapses come sheathed in protective irony, of course, but they still feel like cheap shots, even in a film that celebrates boorish stupidity. That said, this cheerfully crass romp is mostly a lowbrow laugh riot enlivened by some surprisingly subtle comic detail, from its sharply observed film-within-a-film spoofs to Sizzler Amsterdam's archly mock-epic score. A guilty pleasure.
Production companies: Kaap Holland Film, Entertainment One Benelux, Steffen & Flip
Cast: Tim Haars, Bo Maerten, Henry Van Loon, Michiel Romeyn, Waldemar Torenstra, Chris Zegers, Dennie Christian, Maartje van de Wetering, Hanna van Vliet, Roy Reymound Directors, screenwriters: Steffen Haars, Flip van der Kuil
Producer: Maarten Swart
Cinematographer: Joris Kerbosch
Editor: Flip van Der Kuil
Music: Sizzler Amsterdam
Venue: Oldenburg International Film Festival
Sales company: Dutch Features, Zandvoort