By: Jorge Aniwe (Four Beers) –
Pete Smalls isn’t Peter Dinklage, you stupid literalist fuck. How dare you, you big-bigger-bigot! Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones, The Station Agent) instead plays KC, a former screenwriter and current dry cleaner. Dinklage excels at playing mopey bastards, and this character is another. He’s joined by Mark Boone Jr. (Sons of Anarchy, Batman Begins) as Jack, KC’s down-and-out acting coach buddy.
This image alone deserves a toast.
The action starts with KC owing a loan shark ten grand. He finds out that his friend, the famous director Pete Smalls, has died. It seems to bother him, but not as much as when the loan shark nabs his dog. A call from his friend Jack gives him hope of coming up with the money to get his dog back, if KC comes to LA to help him bury their friend, Pete Smalls.
From the start you can feel that this is a detective flick masquerading as an ‘indie film’. The voice-over isn’t immediately annoying but it becomes the Elmer’s glue holding the whole broken mess together. It’s like someone setting two broken fingers themselves and thinking that some generic first aid tape is as good as going to the hospital. Rockwell’s treatment of the detective genre is often enjoyable, as in the use of glow sticks, beating up a corpse, and filming their dead friend’s wife getting fucked.
They’ve done studies, you know. 60% of the time, it works every time.
If the film had stayed a detective story, or had even focused on the two friends rescuing KC’s dog, it might have worked. Instead it devolves into a satiric mock fest of the half-assed attempts by fuck-ups to be movers and shakers in Hollywood. Alexandre Rockwell, the director and writer, clearly has some contempt for Hollywood. This isn’t surprising if you look up his credits on IMDB.
There is a cavalcade of mutants providing the backdrop for Dinklage and Boone’s characters, many played by names that have found themselves in Rockwell’s better films. Steve Buscemi played a producer/distributor with an odd sexual appetite for his secretary, Lena Headey (Game of Thrones, The Sarah Connor Chronicles), and an even odder, tight curl blonde afro. Seymore Cassel (Rushmore, Faces) is the patriarch of a secret society of Armenians that a large amount of the film’s action revolves around. There’s even a scene where comedian Todd Barry sits in a mud-filled hot tub playing with an action figure. Now I love mud-tubbing and action figures more than the average guy, but this attempt to flesh the world out with these bizarre creatures is more negative than positive.
Todd Barry and Todd Glass would make such a cute couple.
Pete Smalls is Dead has problems, but in the end I enjoyed it more than I disliked it, and you’ll like it more if you drink four beers while you watch it. With all his missteps Rockwell still manages to insert some excellent moments of cinematic foreshadowing, and the way he uses music in the film proves that he has skills. If you can make it past the mediocre mockery of Hollywood, and choose to delight in the weirdos populating the film instead of being annoyed by them you’ll enjoy it too. As always, the rule is, keep your expectations low.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: when KC is moping. (You’ll feel better even if he won’t.)
Take a Drink: they drink, you drink.
Take a Drink: KC and Jack ride a scooter together.
Take a Drink: when KC voices over.
Take a Drink: every time someone says “Armenian”. (We’ve mentioned bigotry already. Watch yourself.)
Do a Shot: A dog gets stolen. (That shit is sad. If you don’t need a shot to get through that, kill yourself.)
Do a Shot: A dog gets found. (Celebrate!)