Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hit By Lightning Illustrates The Desperation Of The Loveless . . . In A Mediocre Fashion.

The Good: Generally amusing premise
The Bad: Nothing stellar in the performances
The Basics: Hit By Lightning slouches through its premise of a weak-willed man willing to kill the husband of the woman he has fallen in love with.

As mainstream film companies degenerate into Oscar Pandering Season, independent cinema is engaged in the end-of-the-year free for all to attract an alternative audience. Unfortunately, not all indie films can be Cheap Thrills (reviewed here!), which was one of the huge, pleasant surprises in independent cinema this year and Hit By Lightning is definitely no Cheap Thrills! The Canadian-made Hit By Lightning is supposed to be a comedy, touted as the directoral debut of Ricky Blitt, a writer known for several episodes of Family Guy and one of the segments of Movie 43 (reviewed here!).

Hit By Lightning falls a bit short in the humor department and that was not a good sign for the film. When the best joke comes within the first five minutes – “Maybe we should just shoot each other.” “Hey, You seem a bit down, man.” – it is not a good sign for the film. To its credit, Jon Cryer illicits a second laugh in his character’s first meeting with his prospective wife, but the rest of the film is remarkably devoid of laughter for a comedy (black comedy or not). The problem is, if Hit By Lightning had simply been mis-billed, it would not be a wreck, but Blitt’s film does not fill the void of humor with anything substantial or truly original. Instead, Hit By Lightning gets stuck in being a fairly formulaic crime caper with no larger statement on relationships or the human condition.

Ricky is the dour manager of a Debby’s restaurant, who is surrounded by people who are finding love and getting married. Perpetually single, Ricky hangs out with his friend Seth (often as a customer at his own workplace) and fails to connect with anyone new. After making a plea to god to get married before he gets killed in a terrorist attack or hit by lightning, Ricky signs up for (where his busboy has just found a wife!). Within a week, Ricky has been messaged by Danita and he is convinced she will become his wife, so they meet at a restaurant and he is absolutely blown away. Danita is model-beautiful and the two hit it off so well that they go back to Ricky’s place on their first date.

Meeting for lunch on a second date, the two talk about art (Danita is a painter) and Ricky continues to be smitten with her. When Ricky calls Danita “perfect,” though, she runs off distraught. Over a week later, while Ricky is pining for Danita, Danita contacts him again and the two meet up. Danita confesses to Ricky that she is married to an abusive man who would literally kill her if she tried to leave him. After another date where Ricky’s love is reinforced, Danita implores Ricky to help her kill her husband so they can be together. Protective of Ricky, Seth follows Danita’s husband, Ben, and discovers that he is an ex-rabbi who is now a writer. After the two tail Danita and Ben to their regular date spot, Ricky becomes convinced that Danita has lied to him and she is simply using him to kill Ben. Despite his doubts, Danita convinces Ricky that Ben is a killer and he struggles to get ready to do the deed!

Hit By Lightning is contrived in an interesting-enough fashion. The question of who is telling the truth in Danita and Ben’s she-said/he-said is executed well. As Seth and Ricky try to figure out if Danita is telling the truth or if Ben is actually a decent guy, the viewer gets turned around on which direction the movie is going in. Unfortunately, unlike something like Cheap Thrills, there is no larger statement being made with Hit By Lightning. Unlike Cheap Thrills which illustrates with heartwrenching detail just what someone will do for money, Hit By Lightning seems to set out to illustrate what lonely people will do for love. But the movie wanders too far from the vibe of Ricky’s desperation and that makes it more aimless and more entertaining than genuine commentary.

The thing is, the character journey of Ricky Miller seems much more of a plot contrivance than a genuine character arc. The result is that the film’s resolution hardly delivers any sense of catharsis. The film develops to a critical moment, then goes on another twenty minutes, fizzling out to an unremarkable resolution.

Hit By Lightning is stars Jon Cryer, Will Sasso and Stephanie Szostak. Jon Cryer has a pretty extensive resume at this point, but Ricky Blitt does not get anything stellar out of him. In recent years, Cryer has played beaten-down men who mope through their lives (in contrast to, for example, his more energetic role in Getting Personal) and Cryer has, frankly, played many of his roles in an interchangeable way. Ricky Miller is not one of Cryer’s distinctive or memorable roles; he is essentially playing his character from Two And A Half Men in a different setting and circumstance. Instead of being broken by divorce, Cryer’s Ricky Miller is broken before he can even get married. If one was going to cast a weak-willed patsy character, Jon Cryer is as good a choice as you can get and he delivers exactly that performance – based on what one expects of him as opposed to bringing anything new, different, or quirky to the role.

In a similar way, Will Sasso is fairly bland in the role of Seth. He is granted an entire subplot wherein Seth finds love, albeit of a more typical and less murder-plot-inspired way, but it feels like filler. Sasso delivers his lines as a single guy identical to how his “in love” version of Seth acts and he and Chantal Chamandy have no real on-screen chemistry.

Stephanie Szostak is good as Danita; her performance keeps the viewer guessing and she and Jed Rees have enough chemistry to plausibly play a married couple. Regardless, Hit By Lightning is more listless than engaging and while it briefly finds its footing, it just-as-quickly loses it, making for a mildly entertaining cinematic event.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
To Write Love On Her Arms
The Interview
The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Dragons Of Camelot
Horrible Bosses 2
10,000 Days
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
The Mule
Stonehearst Asylum
John Wick
Listen Up Philip
The Best Of Me
The Judge
Dracula Untold


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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