The Good, The Bad & The Smart (2005)
Written, produced, and directed by: Rickard Remelin, David Bjarke, Mattias Pettersson, Erik Pettersson & Thomas Åkesson
Conceived as a school project and completed in merely 5 weeks, including a grueling 1 week shot in Karlshamn (not quite as rough as when Lu Chuan shot Kekexili: Mountain Patrol on the Tibetan planes but still...), The Good, The Bad & The Smart sees Rickard Remelin return to the small, limited screen after making a mark in the underground with the TV-series Radon (which ran 11 episodes on no channel you and I know of). Along with his brothers in arms David Bjarke, Mattias Pettersson, Erik Pettersson and Thomas Åkesson, they set out with an initial idea to replicate the wonders of silent comedy, utilizing the simple sight gags worthy of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton's talents. While not up to snuff obviously to any of the profiles or aspects they channel throughout the program, The Good, The Bad & The Smart fairly successfully takes its cues from all over the place and adds an originality by structuring itself as an interactive comedy.
Plot is of no importance here, only character setups tells us what we need to know but as you play through the variations of the interactive experience (in my mind, you get not much more coherency if you decide to mix your choices up a little or if you're a great film scholar, which I obviously am not, you can look for subtleties in characters via the trials and tribulations they go through during their normal Tuesday morning...ok, it's not specified but I'd like to believe that it's a Tuesday. Sue me), the playing field turns out to be extensive in its own little way.
Obviously you got your initial and old referencing of Sergio Leone's classic but the directors, in a welcome touch, throws expectations to the wayside and instead during the first minute plants us in a gray urban suburbia that we know nothing of. Enter a group of seemingly close (they sleep together...make of that what you will), varied characters who are probably prone to hurt each other for their own selfish cause (aside from The Good...probably). At frantic speed, the guys delight in giving us references to 24, The Young Ones (mainly through the use of Kenny The Mouse) and even the mou le tai style comedy of Stephen Chow Sing-chi crops up, all while not worrying whether or not it sticks. Comedy is about attempting and while shlockmeister Wong Jing is unfortunately a master of winning us over by bashing our brains to a pulp with his stupid comedy (Future Cops led to therapy for me), the filmmakers here aren't afraid to let a joke or two sink. But for the majority of the proceedings, that include trips to various exotic locations around Karlshamn, the skit structure gets them places of acceptance.
The silent comedy bits, very prominent during the opening montage, are classic in their execution with sights and sounds familiar to even viewers not familiar with the great reference works. The directors take a curious stance when it's revealed that they're not even going to give us title cards of actual dialogue (official language the guys call Retardo but there's two surprise segments with coherent exchanges though), only conclusions and various morals through the use of the white on black card. It's probably a good tool to illuminate a scene, if not always successful because the setup in itself can be flat. All depends on your kind of humour, am not preaching how YOUR opinion should be formed.
And so it goes, and during my first interactive viewing I choose to go The Good route, due to being biased obviously, but Rickard Remelin's eagerness to please and to illustrate comedy in a not so subtle way will win most people over. It's through him we get glimpses of what Stephen Chow does best and that is to bring the unexpected. Not only unexpected but comedic choices that really is completely alien and by god, that has always sat well with me. If you continue to go with this route, it's really only Bjarke's The Bad that has the clearest of intentions through the skits, playing the ruffian and short tempered one. What I like here particular about the game sequence is that the makers just don't settle for him smashing the game pad, they go the extra mile by taking him to TWO locations to further enhance the at times frightening aura that he brings to the three character dynamic. Without making any choice for him on the first viewing Pettersson's The Smart turns out to be sort of the quiet sadist of the group. Someone who can and will manipulate for his cause and amusement.
The biggest praise one can give the production though is that the interactive concept becomes a gateway to more content in an actual way. Bjarke's The Bad gets quite an interesting, contrasting character to work with as it turns out the ruffian can put forth masterstrokes of subtlety when displeased and be the ladies man as well. In further loops of the story, concerning Pettersson's The Smart, you get additional glimpses of the MacGuyver/James Bond esque creation he's embodying (who has perhaps a bit too much power at his fingertips) and furthermore, cinematographers Rickard Remelin and Erik Pettersson grabs opportunities showcase a heavier amount of style to illustrate some finer points. No, it doesn't turn it into MORE of a laugh-fest but the fairly positive grade I've advocated through this review will remain. Perhaps it's even enhanced due to the fact that there's a fair bit to explore. Talking actual acting, the performers embody the traits as they should, which is all you could really ask for in a small scale project.
Despite some pitfalls into humour that doesn't gel (not to mention a number of continuity errors that I personally didn't find myself bothered by), The Good, The Bad & The Smart possesses enough spark and surreal humour, both harking back to an era where you went with visual sight gags in the most basic of ways and bringing in more contemporary references that generates scenarios the great ones wouldn't have been able to come up with way back when. I welcome a chance given to D-R-E-M-T Studious to build on this as it's a brave choice to go with the basics that never really have grown old. But what's up with the gay aspect? Or should one stop right there and not take it so seriously?...You be the judge...it's a friggin' comedy after all. Just don't show this at Gay Pride week. Or do, what do I know...
Put out and distributed by D-R-E-M-T themselves, the film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen (aside from one sequence wrongfully set to 4:3 during filming). Shot on DV and not during the most professional of conditions, nothing fails to come through but don't expect Superbit reference material.
The sound in Linear PCM 2.0 features no obvious problems. Optional English subtitles are available for the brief Swedish dialogue exchanges during a few end segments.
D-R-E-M-T also realized the potential for the dvd format so we get a little excursion into extras territory. Opening the disc and available from the main menu is the mood setter in the form of an intro (I would like to say teaser trailer though) that says nothing and quite a lot about what's to come. Mainly extensive bloopers are then available, divided into its own subjects; Wake Up (2 minutes, 16 seconds), Clothing (2 minutes, 12 seconds), Breakfast (3 minutes, 24 seconds), Bus (1 minute, 14 seconds), School (2 minute, 11 seconds), Bathtube (should be Bathtub, 2 minutes, 24 seconds with the subtitle Mad Man In Bathtube With Duck), Videogame (2 minute, 58 seconds) and Misc (3 minute, 29 seconds). These segments concentrates on the obvious but does feature a good amount of rough footage from the set, further enhancing the apparent gay fear that's deep down in the filmmakers but often also the good spirits of the cast & crew despite the often cramped and windy conditions of the Karlshamn locations. Fans of Remelin's bathtub solo show will have their dreams fulfilled here as we get a raw, uncut version here in this section. It's also apparent that David Bjarke's frustrations in character may very well be rooted in reality.
(from the bloopers segments)
Sounds section holds two options with raw production sound that covers the scenes involving Girl Talk (55 seconds) and Babyscream (11 seconds). There's fun to be had here as the frustration of the involved is beginning to set in during what is probably the first hour of shooting during day 1. Under Miscellaneous, you'll find an option called Dvd menus that gives you a 31 second look into the authoring of this dvd. Unusual but useless. Best Bloopers (4 minutes, 44 seconds) I do realize the potential of as it gathers...well...the best of the screw-up's but no use watching if you've waded through the prior selections of bloopers.
In the top right corner you can see a fast forward button and while the option doesn't suggest it, what's contained here are 6 storyboards. Not much can be gathered that can be connected to the final shot images but for enthusiasts, they're here. Easter Eggs are available for you when and IF you get to the options of where you choose the girls video opponent or who will get rid of Mr. Homo. For the former, highlight either of the choices on screen and press left or right, depending, and a mouse will appear. Clicking it will take you to a 1 minute, 21 second segment with Kenny The Mouse, in player mode, trying to score and in fact, does. As for the second, do the same to highlight a little dancing person. 36 seconds of dancing footage with the Mr. Homo character will play.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson