“Moonwalkers” began its limited theatrical run in New York and Los Angeles yesterday. The film is currently not playing in Houston, but is also available on iTunes.
Capitalizing on conspiracy theories revolving around the moon landing being a hoax, “Moonwalkers” has the government staging Americans landing on the moon as a backup plan in case Apollo 11 doesn’t make it. They hire a CIA agent named Kidman (Ron Perlman) who is fresh out of Vietnam to track down Stanley Kubrick to direct a film that appears like the actual moon landing. Kidman is swindled by a desperate and down-on-his-luck rock band manager named Jonny (Rupert Grint) along with his drug-dependent and hallucinogenic-reliant roommate Leon (Robert Sheehan) who poses as Kubrick.
With a seven day deadline fast approaching, Kidman is forced to utilize Jonny’s weak connections in order to produce what will most likely be a completely disastrous production for the US government.
“Moonwalkers” is the feature film directing debut for Antoine Bardou-Jacquet who collaborated with Dean Craig, the writer of “Death at a Funeral,” in order to fully embrace the insanity of a nation on the brink of what would eventually be the 1970s. The film is quite bizarre from the first frame as Ron Perlman’s Kidman wrestles with his horrific time in Vietnam and has issues distinguishing what’s real and what isn’t as the horrors experienced over there bleed into his everyday life.
Meanwhile Rupert Grint’s Jonny is trying to make a name for the struggling band he’s been managing for three years. The lead singer, Glen (Eric Lampaert), is on the verge of firing Jonny since they still haven’t explored his ideas for a rock opera, he has yet to get laid from the whole lead singer gig, and is convinced Jonny is to blame for their catastrophic reputation. None of that even begins to cover Jonny’s crippling debt that he owes to the town’s most notorious and relentless loan shark: The Ironmonger.
The film has a difficult time transitioning from its stoner comedy roots to its heavy use of blood and gore that seems to be lifted directly from a Quentin Tarantino picture and walks a thin line between a graphic revenge tale and an unrelenting horror film at all times. It’s an overly jagged jump between the three genres, which almost seems to be done on purpose given how important cocaine, marijuana, and LSD are to the storyline. The animated opening alone is like an acid trip borrowed from the likes of “Superjail!” and “Yellow Submarine.”
Rupert Grint is fantastic as Jonny. His battle with bad luck is a war that lasts his entire life. The character is constantly committing immoral acts, but it’s because he’s trying to dig himself out of a hole he can no longer see the exit to. Grint is perfectly believable, portrays desperation exquisitely, and is accidentally smarmy for all of the right reasons. Ron Perlman has the most satisfying character arc. Kidman is the straight faced muscle of the film. He’s unflinching in the face of danger and has no problem getting his hands dirty. So it’s rather hysterical when you see him running around for half the film in a brown-speckled blouse bashing heads in with a shovel. Kidman finally has a chance to unwind after Vietnam in the film and his relaxed state only allows the character to focus to a greater extent. Ron Perlman is gloriously violent and is able to showcase the best side of dry humor.
“Moonwalkers” is a polarizing comedy with many labeling it a failure, but it should undoubtedly be commended for its absolute eccentricity. Every character is different from everyone else in the film; from coked-out manager Derek Kaye (Stephen Campbell Moore) to the drunken director Renatus (Tom Audenaert) that is the biggest fan of his own work. In the same way that “Killer Joe” utilized different, intriguing, and sometimes terrifying individuals, “Moonwalkers” does something similar only with a more lighthearted effect.
It takes a while for “Moonwalkers” to clear its head and find its footing. The acid trip sequence involving Ron Perlman is arguably the film’s high point while the homemade efforts of the moon landing are reminiscent of the Sweded films in “Be Kind Rewind.” But once the film gets somewhat sober, or you’re exposed to its second-hand yet pungent hallucinogens long enough, “Moonwalkers” is bloody, vulgar, and strangely mesmerizing with a unique cast that is essential to executing its ridiculous concept.