Frenemy will earn plenty of derision for the Zach Galifianakis thing. Derision, which is misplaced, but it gets the job done anyway. As a weird comedy/ morality play involving gruesome murder, Frenemy will test your limits of appreciation for clever structure and kegger philosophy, as forcefully as it pushes your buttons with unlikable characters. I suppose your ability to enjoy this movie will correspond to how many times you've been around the block: more than a couple times and you'll probably have little patience with this, a movie that musters its best stuff for the last few minutes - after you've checked out.
But first there's that Galifianakis thing. Frenemy (originally titled Little Fish, Strange Pond) came out around the same time Galifianakis broke biggish in The Hangover, but didn't do much business outside of the festival circuit. However with The Hangover II barreling into theaters, it was the perfect time to rename this movie, smear Galifianakis' face all over it as if he were the star, and unleash it on the unsuspecting masses. For the record, Galifianakis appears in some pivotal early scenes, but this movie is all about Mr. Jack (Matthew Modine) and Sweet Stephen (Callum Blue) wandering around L.A. yakking about life, death and fate while deliberately annoying the hell out of everyone.
There's also Adam Baldwin (Squee!) as detective Tommy, on the trail of a dismembering murderer, and daytime talk show host Dennis Rivers (played to insanely annoying anti-perfection by Don McManus) mercilessly hounding his guest, an 11-year-old who murdered his parents. Comprising equal parts shaggy pretension and sloppy comedy, Frenemy is certainly challenging, only coming together to make some kind of thrilling sense in the final moments. It's not really enough to justify the movie's 80-minute run-time, but it points to the film's interesting conceit while tying things together in an amusing way.
It's just that there's so much to turn viewers off, starting from square one, as our Jack and Stephen sit on a park bench annoying each other. Modine's mysterious British accent is employed to aggravate Stephen and everyone else in the world, including viewers. Some films draw you in with silent, mysterious action (see the fantastic Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle) while others push you away with 'clever dialogue,' (Tarantino has a lot to answer for) and this is one of the latter type. Mr. Jack goes on to harass people on the bus by singing aggressively at them, and worse. As we jump from Jack and Stephen's constant BS to Dennis River's forcefully grating talk-show presence nerves and credulity are strained.
Other than figuring out exactly where this convoluted plot is taking us, there's not much more to recommend here, though it's interesting to note that this effort is helmed by one half of porn auteurs The Dark Brothers' Gregory Dark. It's nice to see him continuing the leap, especially in light of how difficult it is for porn actors and actresses to cross over. Dark's work is decent, so one hopes that in the service of a less irritating script he'll be able to further carve out a unique niche for himself. However, this cash-in on Galifianakis' good name is not it.
Arriving in a 16 X 9 anamorphic widescreen format, the movie looks fine, with good, deep colors and decent black levels. It's not a flashy presentation, though - a little bit flat and with just-OK detailing. No glaring compression artifacts or any film damage appears.
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio doesn't seem - to these ears - to present much in the way of audio engineering. However all of the lame dialog is clear and intelligible, no track damage here or anything to be upset about other than a 5.1 track in service mostly to hammy philosophizing.
Trailers, Closed Captioning and Spanish and English Subtitles are the only extras.
Frenemy looks to cash in on Zach Galifianakis' fame, but since he plays a minor role, it's up to Matthew Modine with a British accent to save this film. Only, his devilish character is but one annoyance among many in this clever but frustrating murder-comedy. If you love rambling drunkenly about the nature of life, death and fate, you'll get where this movie is coming from, but you still probably won't want to get where it's going to. It gets a tepid Rent It rating for being unique, but only masochists will truly enjoy it.
- Kurt Dahlke
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