Henry Altmann (Robin Williams) is furious. He's furious about the cab driver who just rammed into him, claiming the light was yellow. He's furious that he has to go to the doctor's office, and he's furious he has to wait. He's furious he's missing a meeting, and probably furious that he has to go to it too. He's furious about his estranged relationship with his son, Tommy (Hamish Linklater), and his wife, Bette (Melissa Leo), even though it was his fury over the death of his other son and Tommy's decision to become a professional dancer instead of a lawyer that caused the rifts in the first place. In fact, he's so furious, so frequently, over everything in his life, that all that fury has built up into a brain aneurysm, which is what Dr. Sharon Gill (Mila Kunis) is telling him about when he snaps at her. In between his accusations that she doesn't care about her patients and inadvertently reminding her about her recently deceased cat, some of that fury rubs off on Sharon, and she tells Henry he's got 90 minutes to live.
There was a time when The Angriest Man in Brooklyn would've gone to theaters solely based on its pedigree. In addition to a talented cast that also includes James Earl Jones, Richard Kind, and Isaiah Whitlock Jr. in small roles, it also boasts Field of Dreams director Phil Alden Robinson behind the camera, making his first film since 2002's The Sum of All Fears. Sure, maybe the visual effects budget would be a little better (the composite effects in one crucial scene are atrocious), but it'd be the same movie. On one hand, it's kind of alarming that a great ensemble cast and a talented director might make a project that gets buried in a direct-to-video release. On the other hand, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn probably ended up in the right venue.
Anyone looking for an actor to portray a character that is simultaneously obnoxious, funny, and also sympathetic would be lucky to have Robin Williams, but the film lacks a fire to match him. Robinson, working from a script by Daniel Taplitz (itself based on a 1997 Israeli film titled The 97 minutes of Mr. Baum), just doesn't infuse the picture with much liveliness or urgency, the two things the story is about. It's worth appreciating that Henry's perception of a ticking clock actually ends up making him angrier rather than nicer, but his crimes are too vague and formless for his journey of self-discovery to have much dramatic meaning. In one scene, he rushes to a last-minute goodbye bash only to discover one person showed (Kind), and he's still bitter over Henry stealing one of his high school girlfriends. It's sort of funny, but the confrontation reveals nothing about Henry other than that he was and is rude, which is already self-evident. Only one scene, in which Henry records an apology to Tommy, comes the closest to what feels like the intended tone.
The other half of the story concerns Sharon, and if Robinson and Taplitz's struggles to find the right balance for Henry are a fatal wound, Sharon is the killing blow. Kunis is actually great in the role, but her commendable effort can't make Sharon's storyline feel relevant. A great deal of energy is spent on her problems, an affair with a married doctor at the hospital where she works and her addiction to prescription medication, but neither adds up to much. The script creates a rock vs. hard place scenario where cutting this material leaves Kunis without much of a character, but retaining it is just adding a bunch of dead weight to the movie. Even the desire to see Kunis and Williams bantering doesn't go anywhere; their scenes together are among those dragged down by Robinson's flat direction. Peter Dinklage is similarly good yet wasted as Henry's brother Aaron, injecting some personality into a fairly minimal character.
Although The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is never as funny as it ought to be, some of Williams' rage is kind of enjoyable. What hurts the movie more than its lack of belly laughs is Robinson's obvious desire to turn the film into something poignant or meaningful. Flashbacks to happier times in Henry's life feel like empty approximations of treasured moments, limply showing something that the audience ought to feel. Without a dramatic foothold, the entire house of cards comes down, with Robinson's listless vision and Taplitz's unbalanced script tumbling first. Ultimately, the film runs into the same problem that Henry has: its 90 minutes are full of possibilities, but capitalizing on them proves to be harder than it looks.
Photos of the cast over the Brooklyn skyline, with a big bold comedy font punctuated by red lettering. That's the extent of the effort that went into the artwork for The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, which arrives on Blu-ray in an eco-friendly case, with a flyer containing the package's digital copy code and a matte slipcover to hold everything together.
The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 1080p AVC and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is above-average on both counts, if thoroughly unremarkable as far as the format goes. This is a film that takes place almost entirely in the daytime, and therefore mostly escapes the one challenge area for even high-def, which is thick shadows. Instead, the image features "perfect-natural" palette -- blue skies, vibrant green trees, impeccable marigold taxicabs, and crisp red ties. The soundtrack is little more than dialogue, some music, voice-over, and city ambience, but the disc recreates this with a pleasing accuracy, managing a little immersiveness despite little to do. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles round out the presentation.
Only two minor extras are included, both in HD: a by-the-numbers making-of featurette (6:17) consisting of the usual blend of on-set interviews and film clips, and a gag reel (2:51), which includes Peter Dinklage struggling to say "Thai blowjobs" without laughing, and Williams amusing Leo while working with child actors.
Trailers for Divergent, Good Will Hunting, The Big Wedding, Girl Most Likely, and a promo for Epix play before the main menu. No trailer for The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is included.
Rent it. Williams' biggest fans might get a little enjoyment out of seeing him rant and rave, Kunis gives an impressive effort, the cast is fun, and there are brief, fleeting glimpses of the movie Angriest ought to have been. Just don't be surprised if you, like Henry, wish you had a chance to make different choices.
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