Well, I was a dumbshit!
Reason number 501 that I'm a dumbshit is thinking I knew what I was getting into with The Notorious Newman Brothers the "Gangster Flick" written by (and starring) the Butler Brothers and directed by Ryan Noel (the guy who wrote the music for Confusions)! Reason number 502 that I'm a dumbshit is for waiting as long as I did to watch the damned thing. What can I say... I've been busier than... than a couple of clueless Canadian gangsters.
To begin with, the film is by no means a straight Gangster movie with a low budget. Nor is it yet another trite Mafia Spoof. What The Notorious Newman Brothers is happens to be a profane, insane and all-terrain Mockumentary about an aspiring Documentary Film Maker named Max Chaplin (appropriately played by Noel) whose brilliant idea for making his big film is placing an ad in the newspaper to see if anybody out there wants a movie made. I... guess there are worse ideas.
Unfortunately for Max the guys who answer the ad happen to be two badass gangsters named Paulie Newman (Jason) and (no shit) Thunderclap Newman (Brett). These guys have all the ingredients, the clipped accents, the slick moves, the tailored suits, the homophobia, the racism, the packed heat, the unseen harem of whores and the crime in their very blood.
Uh, yeah, the truth is that these guys are idiots. It's almost immediately clear that neither of these morons has any idea what they're doing. Before poor Max realizes what he's doing, Paulie and Thunderclap have him both documenting (and joining in on) their vicious and horrendous crime spree.
This includes the shocking grand larceny of their first job with Max... stealing ingredients for Italian Food from a residential kitchen (and grabbing a few curios while they're at it). I tell you, it's like watching the most chilling parts of The Godfather! The bad news is, the Brothers Newman are only just getting started. As Max begins to learn about the Prison Time the brothers have done, he finds himself embroiled in the dark world of snitches, drugs and even worse. I hesitate to mention, but... at one point the Brothers do the unthinkable and... talk a young lady OUT of renting The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
I may never sleep a full night again. Fucking... monsters.
The entire story promises to steamroll straight through to a big finish... that being possibly the biggest drug deal in Gangland History. Possibly!
Along the way, of course, we are given an intimate look at the Finest Sons of the Mafia as they impart their knowledge to the naive filmmaker and push him into a world he never asked for. In truth, he forces himself to leave the project at least once, but when you're dealing with The Brothers Newman, the word "No" had better be used sparingly. Because that is a word they might consider to be a little too "Big".
But as an informant named Lucky (Mike Mackenzie) tells Max, there may be an entirely new level to the boys. One that Max never dreamed of.
Of course... it doesn't hurt (or help) that Max is almost as clueless as Paulie and "T.C." are.
This brings us to the reason that The Notorious Newman Brothers is not only funny but absolutely hilarious. Brett and Jason have a brilliant way with their improvisational style. The dialogue is an almost constant barrage of self-assured, but far from self-aware soliloquies braided together in a well-composed mess! And let me tell you, it takes a lot of skill and intelligence to play idiots this well (and just as much to wrangle them). The brothers both play off of and talk over each other, constantly attempting to one up each other and somehow still work together for a unified front of bullshit. Meanwhile both Max Chaplin the character and Ryan Noel the actor/ director seems to be almost lost in the flood that comes out of these guys' mouths.
Make no mistake, however, Ryan Noel is as skilled at keeping the film together as the Butlers are at writing it. It seems as if the more lost Chaplin is the more in control Noel is. And that is absolutely necessary when it comes to this kind of organized chaos. The success of the craziest scenes is amplified by the fact that the camera barely cuts for minutes on end. It's one thing to capture scenes like this with lots of time to go back and try again. It's something else alltogether to do this in a true documentary style with the camera on, running, aiming and focusing but never stopping as all the players do their thing.
The fact that he manages to hold his own against both the Notorious Newman Brothers and the Notorious Butler Brothers says a lot for the guy, because they do manage to steal their own show over and over again. The Notorious Newman Brothers has the potential and (dare I say) possibly even the right to be another of those quotable comedy films with that Mafia element to keep the edge. I can't even tell you the extent of the great lines in this film. This is partially because they might not work out of context, partially because the delivery sells them so very often and partially because... well, I'm hoping you'll check oot... I mean "OUT"... this Canadian Independent film for yourself.
Make no mistake, however, this unrated film is most assuredly the equivalent of an R-Rated film in the USA. Although there is no nudity and (interestingly enough) no actual on-screen violence to speak of, if the dialogue were edited for television this 89 minute feature might actually be somewhere around seven minutes long. Often the Butlers seem not to give an eff-you-see-kay if they offend the audience with their frank descriptions of sexuality, use of racist and homophobic terminology and unrelenting profanity (I know WAY too much about these guys' penises now, man). At other times they actually seem to be hoping they will offend you.
Luckily there is a lot more than just this to the film. It's very well edited (by Noel) and the music (when used) is pretty damned good as well (and also... by Noel). Strangely, though this is an Ultra-Indie, The Notorious Newman Brothers rarely falls victim to the poor lighting and badly planned sound of a lot of the independent films out there. Give these guys a few million bucks and you might get one hell of a great movie.
The Notorious Newman Brothers is almost there even in its present state. I had no idea I would like it nearly this much. It can survive on the dialogue alone (even, and especially, at its most offensive), but it doesn't have to. The acting is good (don't miss Melissa D. Beveridge's small yet significant part), the dialogue is natural and the look is overall professional (or as close to it as can be expected from a Canadian Ultra-Indie made on a small budget). Speaing of which, let's give a little credit to cinematographer Simon L. Baker (who doubles a Dave... the... cinematographer... great casting).
As for the ending of the film, not only does it work and compliment the rest of the feature, but I also didn't see it coming. Good job guys.
I've got to stop taking so damned long to watch anything Brett Butler sends my ass from now on. This gem of a Mockumentary is hilarious against all odds and above all expectations. Four Stars out of Five for The Notorious Newman Brothers. If it comes to a film festival near you, don't miss it (especially if you're hard to offend). Keep your mind open and just roll with it. Man, these guys! The last time ol' Brett pinged me about when I was going to stop reviewing all these bad Italian Horror flicks and finally give the fruit of the sweat from his brow a gander, I called him a Cannucklehead and he totally ran with it. What does it take to offend a Canadian these days, man? Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to do my fair share of time behind bars. You see I've just pirated a whole fuckload of copies of The Notorious Newman Brothers and I'm going to be selling them for dirt cheap all around town, baby. Well... that and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants!
Fuckin' be cool for just a minute
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