The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"AMERICONS"

Americons

Americons is like The Wolf of Wall Street without the skill, depth, nuance, humor, or poignancy. I don't say that to be witty or snide. The film is obviously going for that same kind of exploration of immorality, but the people who made it lack the skills that Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, and screenwriter Terence Winter brought to the table. Consequently, Americons is a hollow experience – a film that takes you places you've already been, with no real reason to return there.

The story deals with the Option Arm, an investment designed for experienced real estate investors, but eventually made available to the public. It allowed people to buy houses they couldn't afford. The results were catastrophic for many. Beau Martin Williams plays Jason Kelley, a former college football star now working as the doorman at a nightclub. One evening after closing, he has a fateful encounter with Devin Weiss (Matt Funke), a stereotypically douchey guy whose purpose in life seems to be showing off his douchiness. Devin, the type of individual who calls everyone “Bro,” offers to set Jason up with a job in finance, eventually teaching him how to get people to sign up for this investment. Jason immediately helps his former teammate Theo Jones (Trai Byers) purchase an expensive home, despite being unemployed.

You can doubtlessly guess everything that happens from here. Americons has a very standard arc: decent guy falls under the influence of a high roller and the promise of easy money, becomes an insufferably materialistic prick, falls from grace, and then seeks redemption. Every beat is predicable; it's a paint-by-numbers story all the way, with not a single original twist on any of it. Getting wrapped up in a movie is tough when you know everything that's going to happen long before it actually does.

Americons is just as interested in showing the hedonism of the high finance lifestyle as it is in exploring the real estate crash. Actually, it's probably more interested in that. There are plenty of scenes showing Jason and Devin taking drugs, going to strip clubs, and partying. But where most films would show how that way of life eventually wears a person down, this one makes it look inappropriately fun. When it does get into its primary subject matter, Americons indulges in didactic sermonizing, while simultaneously over-simplifying a complex issue. The big message here is that scumbags took advantage of the Option Arm and made a lot of money, while other people lost everything they had. You already knew that, right?

Director Theo Avgerinos and Beau Martin Williams (who wrote the script and gave himself a bizarre “Created by” credit) obviously think they're making a profound, important film. There's just no depth to it, though. Americons plays like it was made by a bunch of people who saw other, similar cinematic morality tales and worked overtime to emulate them. Everything hovers at the surface.

That includes the acting. Williams proves to be a weak choice for the lead role. His performance is spectacularly free of charisma, bordering on robotic. For the film to even begin to work, it needed an actor with more range to really sell Jason's seduction into this world and eventual retreat from it. Williams did make sure to write himself several gratuitous, surprisingly graphic sex scenes. Perhaps his goal is to be the new Tommy Wiseau? The supporting actors, saddled with his one-dimensional script, struggle to find things to do, to no avail. Funke, for instance, just plays a variation on every obnoxious rich-boy character you've ever seen.

There's a good movie to be made about this subject matter, but Americons isn't it. The film isn't deep enough to be affecting, nor is it well-made enough to be entertaining. Just like Devin, it's here to take your money and saddle you with a bad investment that leaves you with nothing afterward.

( out of four)


Americons is rated R for language, drug use, and sexuality. The running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes.


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