Favoring bad guys tapping into their inner action hero crime fighters lately in movies, WWE champion Paul Triple H Levesque continues his move from the wrestling ring to mean moves on the big screen, in the post-prison semi-serious smackdown, Inside Out. And with an elusive teaser blend not unlike pro-wrestler maneuvers, though not entirely successful, that flirts alternately with freaky humor and serious pain.
Setting the instantaneous zany mood from the starting gate with wild voiceover wit is Michael Rapaport as Jack, a Big Easy bottom feeder gangster and model family man who rambles on to himself about bad karma and how ‘Jesus died so we could all be assholes.’ Turning up at a bus depot to greet his best boyhood pal AJ (Triple H), just out of the joint at Angola Penitentiary after thirteen years in lockdown, Jack plays catchup as to what’s been happening all that time in his absence. Which includes marrying and mating with AJ’s love of his life, Claire (Parker Posey) in the interim and raising their daughter, Pepper (Juliette Goglia).
But there are strangely no hard feelings all around for moving in on his woman, as the currently meek and mild mannered ex-con settles in as a house guest with the family. And even if AJ ended up in prison for killing a man about to gun down his best friend. In any case, AJ’s focus right now is on going legit, as he arrives from the pen packing pickles and dreams of setting up his own pickle emporium.
So AJ has to draw the line repeatedly, at being pressured into a life of petty crime all over again by Jack. Who happens to work as an enforcer for his deranged and denigrating dad, Dr. Vic (Bruce Dern). A crusty veterinarian whose New Orleans animal clinic is a front for an illegal cigarette smuggling ring, Dr. Vic divides his time as head mobster between dispatching double crossers by proxy to the afterlife, and ‘taking out dog testicles.’
Director Artie Mandelberg engineers awkward and abrupt transitions between comedy, action sequences and solemn personal moments. And seems to propel the narrative momentum forward much too hastily when wrapping up, as if on a time clock before stuff going on so to speak sours and turns back into pumpkins, or rather pickles.
On the other hand, these colorful characters really rock, no doubt in large part owing to screenwriter Dylan Schaffer. With likely his own unique take on the outlaw life, as criminal defense lawyer in over fifty murder indictments for his day job. And Schaffer as counsel for a bunch of notorious cases like the San Francisco dog mauling, and the Gotti/Gambino family trials.
Not to deny credit to these stars, whose interactive chemistry kicks butt. Especially Rapaport who seems at times to have wandered in on controlled substances from a parallel universe, and Triple H aka The Cerebral Assassin, smoothly perfecting his mood swings between pensive and scary. Along with Bruce Dern’s bad parenting medical maniac, a dysfunctional screen personality he appears to have been honing since his infamous creds back in the day in The Cowboys (1972), as the only man in film history to have ever killed John Wayne in a movie.
WWE Studios/Samuel Goldwyn Films
2 1/2 stars