'Supercon': Film Review

The geeks deserve much better.

'Milius' co-director Zak Knutson goes solo with his feature debut about a heist at a sci-fi convention.

Fourth-tier genre celebrities try to rob from the hand that feeds them in Supercon, a nearly laughless caper comedy from Zak Knutson. Setting a few foul-mouthed, foul-tempered characters loose at one of those regional Comic-Con-type affairs where has-been TV stars take photos with fans for money, the pic works in a familiar milieu: Viewers who feel they're trapped in a low-rent Kevin Smith knockoff will be unsurprised to learn that Knutson, before collaborating on a diverting 2013 doc about John Milius, made a handful of video docs about Clerks II, Chasing Amy and other Smith productions. Though devoted fanboys may find it worth a chuckle or two on streaming outlets, most viewers will find it as unsatisfying as a photo op with an extra from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Keith Mahar (Russell Peters) was a child actor in the '80s, playing an ethnic-caricature sidekick to "Tex Johnson," a TV lawman played by former sci-fi icon Adam King. Out of work for years, facing divorce and an angry landlord, Keith relies on paid meet-and-greets for rent money; but the way he drags himself to the gig, you'd think he was ready to quit. A friend from this circuit, Ryan Kwanten's Matt Wheeler, is far more perky, perhaps because fans recognize him without prompting.

No convention celeb guest here is in higher demand than Keith's old co-star King, whose claims to fame (which recall T.J. Hooker and Star Trek) position him as a William Shatner type. As scripted and played by Clancy Brown, though, King has nothing like Shatner's eccentric appeal; he's just a generically vain actor who sweeps into each new con and collects his cash. Fans are thrilled to stand near him for a photo, but anyone who has worked with King detests him.

Keith and Matt are exploring local BBQ with two other bottom-rung celebs (Brooks Braselman and Maggie Grace) when they get into a spat with King, leading the convention's manager (Mike Epps' Gil) to kick them out of the event. Broke and offended, they hatch a plan to get even, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Gil's safe before he can pay King for his appearance. Matt imagines several possible scenarios for the robbery, all of which involve Grace's Allison McNeely (a comic book artist) to get in skimpy cosplay outfits and seduce someone. The plan they eventually settle on enlists the help of a doddering old comic book writer named Sid (John Malkovich).

Malkovich appears to be saying yes to any movie he's offered these days; whatever damage that's doing to his value as a serious actor, his presence gives a little boost to this low-wattage film. Wearing a rosy, dumb-looking wig, Sid is an old-timer who has earned the bitterness he feels toward King, and is happy to distract him while the gang goes for his loot.

The action doesn't start until an hour into the picture, and is as unimaginative as everything that has preceded it. (How much would you like to bet that someone climbs through a ventilation duct?) The third act is noteworthy mostly for a painfully extended gag that sends one castmember face-first into a toilet full of diarrhea. It isn't a happy day when a movie causes you to think, "Man, I wish I were watching Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back right now." Here's hoping the end credits' promise of a sequel are as delusional as King's self-esteem.

Production company: Momentum Productions
Distributor: Archstone Distribution
Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Maggie Grace, Mike Epps, Russell Peters, Brooks Braselman, Clancy Brown, John Malkovich
Director: Zak Knutson
Screenwriter: Zak Knutson, Andrew Sipes, Dana Snyder
Producers: DJ Dodd, Mike Epps, Ken Gorrell, Susan Correll
Executive producers: Julie B. Denny, Maria J. McDonald, Lori Owen
Director of photography: Zoran Popovic
Production designer: Freddy Waff
Costume designer: Bonnie Stauch
Editors: Dustin Chow, Jay Wade Edwards
Composer: James L. Venable
Casting director: Nancy Nayor

R, 99 minutes