The Bronze
Sony Pictures // R // $25.99 // August 2, 2016
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted July 28, 2016
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In 10 Words or Less
Funny people in an unfunny film

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Thomas Middleditch, the Duplass Brothers
Likes: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Cecily Strong
Dislikes: Gymnastics
Hates: Funny people not being funny (in a supposed comedy)

The Movie
The trailer for The Bronze, a starring vehicle for The Big Bang Theory's Melissa Rauch (who also co-wrote with her husband) promised a film full of laughs, which is what you'd expect when you've got a comedy starring Rauch, the great Thomas Middleditch, Gary Cole and Cecily Strong. Watching the film however results in an entirely different experience, unless your bar for laughter is exceedingly low, as the movie mistakes crudeness for comedy at every turn, with only the goodwill brought in by the cast carrying The Bronze over the finish line.

Hope (Rauch) is a one-time Olympic bronze medalist, a national icon at the time of her achievement for overcoming an injury to earn her prize (an obvious homage to Olympian Kerri Strug.) Several years later, Hope hasn't done much else with her life, living off her fame in her small Ohio hometown and acting like an utterly awful person, particularly when it comes to her put-upon father Stan (Gary Cole.) A pill-popping thief without a job or motivation, she's going nowhere fast when she learns her old coach has committed suicide, leaving $500,000 to Hope if she coaches her last student, Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson), to the big games in Toronto and victory over her cocky nemesis Lance (Sebastian Stan.) This forces the former gymnast to decide whether she wants the money or her place as Ohio royalty, since if she's successful, Maggie will take away her claim to fame.

Though the totality of this review will be decidedly negative, it's easy to use the word great repeatedly in describing it, because the concept of the reprobate former star facing a catch-22 is great, the cast, based on their work to date, is great, Richardson is great as the film's young, naive focal point and there's even a great plot twist that's organic and not telegraphed. The problem, however, is that the movie, directed by commercial superstar Bryan Buckley, doesn't know what tone it's trying to achieve, at times evoking some real emotion, only to quickly undercut it, and thus muddles through in a gray, uneven area that's far from satisfying. With this cast, the kinds of characters and the dialogue presented, it certainly seems like it should be a comedy, but there were no real laughs to be found. It's rather distracting when what you're seeing tells you you should be laughing, but you just aren't feeling the funny.

The main issue is the source of attempted comedy, which is simply vulgar and crude. We're obviously intended to laugh at the disconnect between Rauch's cute, innocent look as an Olympic gymnast and the drop-dead filthy mouth she uses to assault everyone in the film, but when it keeps on coming like a never-ending flood, it quickly loses its impact and starts to draw attention to itself for trying too hard. Just like the film itself, Hope is an inconsistent character, and it's hard to build much empathy for her with the way she treats everyone around her, while displays of her "good side" feel convenient and unmotivated. There's a difference between an anti-hero and an a-hole, and Hope is far to one extreme of that spectrum.

The film's other big attempt to shock the audience into hysterics is a ridiculously explicit gymnastics-inspired sex scene that isn't so much funny as it is awe-inspiring for the physicality on display. It's certainly a case of beating a long-dead horse, but how do you fail so miserably to be funny by being so base, when you have a well-filmed movie with a quartet of brilliant comedians, three of which (Middleditch, Cole and Strong) are given almost nothing funny to do, with Strong's role being one of the biggest wastes of talent in recent memory. No one is going to feel good about how things stand at the end of The Bronze.

The Disc
The Bronze arrives on one Blu-ray, in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. The Blu-ray disc has a static menu with options to watch the film, adjust the setup, select scenes and check out the extras. Audio options include English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 and English Audio Descriptive Service 5.1 tracks, while subtitles are available in English, English SDH, Chinese Simplified and Traditional, French, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese and Thai.

The Quality
The 1.85:1, AVC-encoded 1080p transfer here shows no notable problems as it delivers an impressive level of fine detail, with good fleshtones (notice the difference in Hope's skin and the other characters') and appropriate color (which truly shines during the well-lit competitions, with all the vibrant uniforms.) It feels like the film went intentionally low-fi, inspired by the small-town setting, and as a result it's not the sharpest affair, but it doesn't show any true issues either, while leaning toward a slightly cool palette. Digital distractions are not a concern, though black levels could be better defined in spots.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is mainly about dialogue, and you can hear every dirty word clearly and without distortion, but the soundtrack at times makes sure you're awake, dropping some intensely heavy bass, to the point where the folks downstairs called and asked if we were moving furniture. There's some atmospheric effects at times in the surrounds, along with a boost for the score, but mainly this is a front-and-center presentation, and a good one at that.

The Extras
The only real extra is a 6:40 reel of six deleted scenes, all of which were smartly removed from the film, with the extended fight between Rauch and Cole being the most wisely discarded clip. That there isn't a commentary with Rauch and Middleditch is just a further waste of talent.

The red-band theatrical trailer (1:19), which falsely portrays the movie as comedic, is here in case you want to remind yourself of what hope felt like. There's also a pile of other trailers.

The Bottom Line
At the risk of repeating myself, The Bronze's excessively filthy sense of "humor" is one of the main reasons why the film is such an unfunny disappointment and a waste of a genuinely great cast. On the plus side, the disc looks and sounds quite nice, though there aren't many extras to check out. Rauch's fans may want to see her get extended screentime, and anyone who enjoys a ton of swearing (and gymnast sex) may have a good time, but there are plenty of better ways to spend 100 minutes.


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