Blackmail Boys


Reviewed by: James Benefield

Blackmail Boys
"Haziness and lack of bite and depth eventually lead to the film's downfall."

Mumblecore and hardcore come together in this tale of young love and blackmail.

We begin the movie at the end of three very long years in the lives of the two central protagonists, Sam and Aaron. They've been in a super-long-distance relationship, and the chance of this hardship coming to an end becomes very real when they decide to get engaged. It also forces Sam to confront his choice of career. He's a rent boy, as it seems like easy work and it earns good money but he's worried it'll put a strain on relations with Aaron.

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But just before Sam decides to quit, a unique opportunity presents itself. Sam learns that one of his regular clients is actually an evangelical preacher, Andrew Kenneth Tucker (Joe Swanberg). Tucker is known for his hostile views on homosexuality, which he couples with his need to connect religion to the youth of the area with social media interactions and media appearances. After discovering this, and with a mixture of rage, disbelief and opportunism, the couple decide to raise some money for their upcoming wedding by blackmailing the preacher with some video footage of Sam and Andrew together.

Although succumbing to the nauseatingly shaky handheld camera, spider's web-thin plotting and plentiful shots of Joe Swanberg getting his willy out we've come to know and debate from mumblecore, this is a slightly different beast to say, Hannah Takes The Stairs. There's less hand-wringing angst and verbosity and more soft-focus love scenes. There's also a vein of sentimentality, earnestness and, perhaps, schmaltz, to the story.

It's this haziness and lack of bite and depth which eventually lead to the film's downfall. The Shumanski brothers would rather shoot scenes of the boys in bed, gazing into each others eyes, than make a film about the realities of a relationship or the plot in hand (which only kicks in the second half of the movie). I never thought I'd say this, but I would rather have some more traditionally mumblecore navel-gazing than the ethereal, blissed-out and repetitious sequences featured here.

However, it's an interesting, different take on a now rather tired sub-genre and all three leads are likeable enough. If Larry Clarke and Sofia Coppola made a mumbecore movie it would be like this, but that's probably not a good thing

Reviewed on: 08 Jan 2012
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Two lovers in a long-distance relationship turn to extortion to fund their wedding.
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Director: Bernard Shumanski, Richard Shumanski

Writer: Bernard Shumanski, Richard Shumanski

Starring: Nathan Adloff, Taylor Reed, Joe Swanberg, Danny Rhodes, Tamara Fana, Nostrebla Navi, Spencer Parsons, Marc Singletary

Year: 2010

Runtime: 69 minutes

Country: US


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