Rightwing Film Geek

Small Engine Repair

SMALL ENGINE REPAIR (John Pollono, USA, 2021) 7

Well that took a turn to the fuckin dark…

It’d be cruel and unfair to compare SMALL ENGINE REPAIR to Takashi Miike’s AUDITION, which is just one of this century’s best movies and has the greatest tone shift in movie history. But Pollono is definitely trying to pull off something similar, gliding from amiable-ish genre piece (here, a bro-hangout film) into the outer realms of ultra-violence. However while Miike also shifted character, POV and possible reality as well as tone, Pollono doesn’t. As a result the Japanese film glides past and makes us swallow the absurdities and contrivances of torture porn while the American one doesn’t.

Still until those narrative contrivances kick in, REPAIR is a very enjoyable bro-hangout film, New England working-class division. It precisely nails the dynamic of three best drinking buddies — Frankie the recovering alcoholic, Packy the dim bulb, and Swaino the instigator. “Fuck you” is a term of endearment among them but the circle is starting to age past the sell-by date and it now looks kinda pathetic or more. REPAIR has some of the underlying mix of danger and fascination thereof as Joe Pesci’s scenes in GOODFELLAS, since it opens with Frankie being released from jail and the first act ends with a near-fatal fight. Cut to Recovery Frankie drinking and smoking.

The second act is a reunion night at Frankie’s garage, which is capped off with a visit from a drug dealer, which kicks in the third act and the excrement making contact with the rotating blades. The long flashback in which the older men tell the college-student dealer about watching the 1986 World Series with their fathers would make a great short-subject and it encapsulates the film in miniature — “toxic masculinity” consumed and narrativized as nostalgia.

I lol’d at lines like “that’s homophobic” and “my people have been marginalized and oppressed by white people” being used in these contexts — it’s 2021 nominally but the year’s High Wokeness has trickled down imperfectly. Even in 2021, I can believe that some folks still are ignorant of Dis Instagram Shit (“like a fucking Asian teenager”) and this tech disconnect also sets up one of the film’s best lines, “I have 2,854 followers” as a plea for one’s life.

But while I appreciated the head fake of the perfect murder, which had my eyes rolling as it happening since these three are varying types of fuck-up, I cannot believe that a major law firm would drop a partner over Instagram posts of the type described here. Nor do I believe the parallel threat that wraps up the plot would be as effective as it is. Nor do I believe the line “whore daughter” in that situation. Nor can I discern why on earth Frankie turns himself in to the cops, and that this would have no effect on the other conspirators. Too bad really.

September 24, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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