It's clear Pros and Ex-Cons is going to be a chore right from the very first scene. In the scene, Brad (Brian Cobb) and Rohan (Selwyn Pretorius) hatch a bank-cheating scheme to steal millions. Not only does the scene feature substandard acting, poor writing, unfunny comedy, clunky exposition, pedestrian cinematography/direction, and two extremely unlikable characters, but the actual plan of using a formula to collect "rounded off" cents from a bank is both ripped off from Office Space and Superman III. And that's just for starters: the next 7 minutes introduce (if I counted correctly) fourteen more seemingly relevant characters, and only one them stands out...because he's played by future international movie star Sam Worthington.
In case you haven't guessed, Pros and Ex-Cons is one of those terrible DVD "resurrections"; this is a 2005 no-budget Aussie production dug up by a distributor looking for a few bucks and forcefully thrust into perfectly innocent stores and Redboxes simply Worthington went and appeared in the most successful movie of all time. Worthington plays Able, one of two hitmen (the other named Willing...get it?) employed by local gangster Fink (David Wheeler) to rub out anyone who owes him money and doesn't pay up. Due to a mix-up of address, Able and Willing accidentally kill the wrong person, putting them on Fink's bad side and forcing them to look for a problem of his they might solve in their free time to get them back in his good graces.
That thread could ostensibly carry a movie, and it's the one Lionsgate's chosen to hang their advertising on, but writer/director Tim Boyle is a graduate of the film school likes Tarantino's movies without understanding what makes them work. Pros and Ex-Cons piles on supposedly witty gangsters, creeps, lowlifes and schmoes into a dizzying mess of interconnected stories. On top of the bank robbery scheme and the address mix-up, there's also a gambling debt, an assassin out for blood, two sets of undercover cops, a trio of stoners who get mistaken for killers, an expansive rivalry between "professionals" over the town's marked-for-dead over the course of a night, more stoners just being stoners, and Fink, watching over everything like a ticking time bomb. It's as if Boyle saw Pulp Fiction, followed Tarantino to Guy Ritchie, and then tried to out-plot both of them through sheer volume.
In his attempt to create a twisty but funny crime thriller, Doyle's writing relies on stupid convenience and his own failure to see how what he's written doesn't make sense. A professional assassin kills a character without a second thought when he says he has no more insider information to offer, then claims she did it to avoid "loose ends, despite having just created a gigantic one. The victim is even an undercover cop, to boot, whose partner doesn't take any action whatsoever despite apparent video proof of the murder. An irritated Willing kills a gas station attendant for telling him to turn off his phone and then another bystander for screaming in reaction, but he and able leave a member of the stoner trio who witnesses the killings alive for no reason at all. Said stoners are motivated in the following scene when their landlord appear at almost the same time, but the landlord only pounds on the door until the guys escape undetected (using a fire escape the landlord is concerned enough they will use to escape that he mentions it to them, thereby giving them the idea to use it, but does not have anyone or anything actually preventing its use), then promptly vanishes without a trace or explanation before the killer gets upstairs.
Directorially, Doyle isn't any more coherent than he is at writing, peppering his film with confusing editing, sloppy blocking, and a distinct lack of any other personality. Performances, with the exception of Worthington (who is average) and John Boxer (who just might deserve to be in a better movie), are almost all terrible. And that's before the film starts blatantly referencing other movies like Pulp Fiction, Evil Dead II and Ghostbusters. All of these elements come together in a final shootout that Doyle strains to set up and struggles to pay off, and all in service of a bunch of unlikable characters either dying or getting things they don't deserve. There's a reason this movie wasn't popular before Worthington became a star, and there certainly isn't one to bother with it now.
Shiny new artwork has been created for the front cover of Pros and Ex-Cons, which uses Photoshop to give the impression that this is a basic gangster movie without hinting at the rinky-dink nature or useless, bloated complexity of the movie itself. The back cover is a little more indicative of the film's cheapness, stretching one photo to cover 50% of the surface area, but there's still not a real sense of what the viewer will see. The case is an eco-friendly design, and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
Shot on what looks like consumer-grade digital cameras, the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is plagued mainly by unseemly digital motion blur and harsh, blown-out lighting, but even I have to admit that this is a pretty good transfer for a low-budget movie. I didn't notice any significant artifacting, posterization, or edge enhancement, and there's a fairly strong level of detail visible in the image. Dolby Digital 5.1, on the other hand, is lacking in punch and features weak directionality, even when guns are being fired and music is going. English and Spanish subtitles are also included.
None. Trailers for Blood Out, The Heavy, Locked Down (all of which star Vinnie Jones...hmm), and promos for Break.com and Epix play before the main menu. No trailer for Pros and Ex-Cons is included.
Writer/director Tim Doyle has lots of ambition, and a complete lack of the required inventiveness or technique to turn that into a quality product. The title doesn't even make sense (who are the ex-cons?). If you loved Pulp Fiction, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, or any other twisty, clever, ensemble crime thriller of the last decade or two...watch them again, and skip this deservingly unheard of turd.
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