Touting itself as “a witty homage to Tarantino and the Coen brothers”, the new crime comedy “One Day as a Lion” definitely tries to fit that image. Unfortunately it tries a little too hard – from its dialogue, to its characters, to its attempts at fusing action and comedy. Yet there’s something endearing about its efforts, even if they don’t lead to the kind of results the movie is clearly hoping for.
At a breezy 87 minutes, “One Day as a Lion” (a title that’s pulled from an old African proverb) doesn’t waste much time getting to where its going. Directed by John Schwab, the story follows an ex-boxer turned hitman named Jackie Powers (played by Scott Caan who also wrote the screenplay). Jackie is a bit of a boob and hardly the kind of guy you would entrust with an important job (can you see where this is going?).
But Jackie is also desperate. His 15-year-old son Billy (Dash Melrose) has been locked up in a juvenile detention center on a kidnapping charge and Jackie needs money for a good lawyer. His deadbeat ex-wife and Billy’s mother (Taryn Manning) is no help. So Jackie takes a debt collecting job from an old associate named Dom (George Carroll). It turns out a crusty old cowboy named Walter Boggs (a great J.K. Simmons) has ran up a $100,000 gambling debt with Dom’s boss, a gangster named Pauly Russo (Frank Grillo).
Jackie tracks Walter to a small town Oklahoma diner, but he botches the job leading him to swapping gunfire with Walter and accidentally killing the cook in the exchange. Jackie escapes, grabbing the lone witness as his hostage – a down-on-her-luck waitress Lola Brisky (Marianne Rendón). Lola is an aspiring actress who ventured off to Costa Rica to open up an acting school that’s on the verge of going belly-up. She came back to the States to secure some money, but her wealthy and ailing mother (Virginia Madsen) isn’t all that supportive.
Jackie and Lola seize the opportunity to help each other out, all while on the run from the cops and Dom who has been sent by a ticked-off Pauly to clean up the mess Jackie left behind. It’s a fairly entertaining setup and the colorful blend of characters are constantly elevating the material. Simmons is especially good and gets a lot of mileage out of what amounts to a smaller supporting role. Grillo is his usual rock-solid self. Unfortunately he’s handcuffed to some of the film’s worst dialogue which makes him sound more like a manufactured movie tough guy than a real person.
One of the biggest treats is the dryly funny Rendón who does some fun and interesting things with the cynical and disillusioned Lola. It’s a really good performance and the movie is often at its best when she’s on screen. As for her chemistry with Caan, it’s fine yet missing a spark. It all comes down to the relationship between their characters which, much like the movie itself, never quite comes to boil. It’s a little too undercooked, and it’s really hard to understand their mutual attraction which inevitably surfaces.
The film’s tonal gymnastics can be a little challenging as well. The comedy doesn’t always gel with the crime thriller elements. And the occasional bursts of pulpy violence can clash with the more heartfelt family drama. But the fleet-footed story bounces from place to place fast enough that it’s hard to think too much on its shortcomings. That makes it easy to digest. At the same time you can’t help but think how better it could have been with a little more detail and focus. “One Day as a Lion” opens tomorrow in select theaters and on VOD.
It’s too bad there is a fatal flaw in the original premise, which is thinking juvenile court cases need horribly expensive attorneys. It almost always backfires because those expensive attorneys know NOTHING about how it works which often works against the kid and family. Do your research, screenplay writers! Sounds like the movie has a lot of other weak links, but it doesn’t sound like it holds together well enough to watch when you’re tired of surfing banners on a streaming channel.
It’s so funny that you mention that. I thought the same thing, and some of the places the movie goes in that regard are unintentionally hilarious. And I have other questions about its depiction of the juvenile system that I will leave for others to discover. Let’s just say it doesn’t exactly add up.LOL
LOL, now I *have* to watch it!
doesn’t = does (that’s what I get for spewing forth from the keyboard lol)
No worries. I knew what you meant!
Well I like Grillo, (couldnt work out which part he plays BTW) so a maybe-if-desperate from me.
Grillo is always good. But he doesn’t get much to work with here.
Scott Caan. I never thought he was a good actor who has a very limited range. The fact that he wrote this doesn’t help matters as he always comes off as a real douche. He should be lucky that he had a famous father who was never a douche on and off screen.
His performance is actually OK here and it fits the character. His script though has a lot of issues.
Ever thought about taking a college English class? You could learn how to use the apostrophe, the possessive, past tenses, and other things that make an article readable to non-idiots!
I might take your advice if you didn’t sound so pompous and silly. Frankly it’s hard to take you seriously.