The Good: Moments of concept, Acting is generally competent, Joshua Malina’s cameo!
The Bad: Incredibly predictable, Not very funny, Characters are pretty monolithic
The Basics: Too gory and unsettling to be a good comedy, too goofy to be a good horror, Knights Of Badassdom is more disappointing than exceptional.
As my wife and I pick up our tradition of date nights together, we are trying to find new (to us) films that might appeal to us. One of the lingering movies that we have been wanting to watch together was Knights Of Badassdom. Last night, we decided to make a date of it, despite her worrying that it might be too gory for her. Interestingly, Knights Of Badassdom was not so gory as to be unpleasant (though the sheer amount of blood in one key scene did turn my wife’s stomach), though it was graphic enough to rob the film of its moments of comedic charm.
Both my wife and I are actually the ideal demographic for the makers of Knights Of Badassdom; while we are not LARPers or big into role playing games, we are geeks who enjoy science fiction conventions and geek culture. So, it says something about Knights Of Badassdom that the moment of greatest enjoyment we had watching the eighty-six minutes of the film was when Joshua Malina popped up. Malina’s work on Sports Night (reviewed here!) and on the last few seasons of The West Wing (reviewed here!) makes his brief role in Knights Of Badassdom a real treat (though even that would have been funnier if the actor had simply been playing himself!). All that said, Knights Of Badassdom is more mediocre than in any way incredible, despite having a subject that is atypical in popular cinema.
Joe works in a car repair shop, though he lives with some friends in a castle. He is dating Beth, who is upset when he is not making any moves to propose and move their relationship forward. After Beth dumps Joe, his friends Eric and Hung get him drunk and high and he wakes up at a LARP (Live Action Role Play) event in the middle of the woods. Convinced by his friends to stay and seeing the gorgeous LARPer Gwen, Joe agrees to play along for the weekend war event. The organizer of the event, Ronnie Kwok, demands that Joe be brought into the game using a “spell.” To facilitate the spell, Eric uses a long-lost demonic spellbook he bought online . . . in the process, he accidentally summons a succubus who takes the form of Beth.
As the LARP event progresses, Joe acclimates to playing the game and he discovers that Gwen is actually interested in him as well. The succubus Beth starts killing people at the event, starting with an actor hired to play a mutant gorilla. When the succubus starts ripping out the hearts of players, getting closer to Joe and his team, the reality of their situation quickly dawns on the players. With Hung murdered and the identity of the succubus exposed, Joe, Gwen, Gunther, and Eric decide to stay and confront the demon with real weapons in order to try to save the lives of the other LARP participants.
Knights Of Badassdom is set up with a painfully obvious plot progression. Opening with the demonic book getting tattooed onto the face of a redneck, the viewer waits for the redneck head to pop back up into the narrative. The concept is surprisingly unimaginative for an audience that is pretty savvy to science fiction/fantasy twists and turns. Similarly, the series of reversals in Knights Of Badassdom is pretty much a mundane progression for fans of horror films. Such is the bane of Knights Of Badassdom: it is far too formulaic and obvious for fans of horror and it is not funny enough hold the interest of those who love comedy films. The film does not commit to either of its main components: the ridiculous ultimate incarnation of the succubus demon is undermined by the violence it unleashes.
The cast of Knights Of Badassdom is largely male-dominated. Despite Summer Glau appearing prominently in the film, she is more or less exploited for her ass and her smile. Director Joe Lynch uses Glau for the more overt sexuality in the film (despite Margarita Levieva’s naked back being prominently featured), though the film barely uses either woman in supporting roles.
Genre actors Ryan Kwanten and Peter Dinklage dominate Knights Of Badassdom. Steve Zahn is troublingly miscast as Eric. Zahn does well with comedy roles and while Eric is granted goofy body language thanks to his performance, but he is given a far more serious role to play as Eric. In other words, the lines and his part in the film – being the voice of reason, trying to flee the scene, as his friends want to stay and fight the demon – are surprisingly dramatic, but Zahn plays it with his usual effortless charm and swagger. The result is a role that does not play as well on-screen as it should have. Zahn’s Eric is not credible as either one who might want to take the smart way out and not fun enough to truly be a LARP participant.
Ryan Kwanten plays well as Joe. Joe is a decent departure for Kwanten from his role on True Blood. Smarter than his True Blood character Jason Stackhouse, Joe proves that Kwanten can act well as there is not a hint of his Louisiana accent in Joe! Similarly, Peter Dinklage makes Hung a distinctly different character than any of his other characters.
Ultimately, the quality of a few of the performances does not justify the film. Knights Of Badassdom is just not a strong enough as a comedy or a horror movie to be successful as either.
For other science fiction/horror comedies, please visit my reviews of:
The World's End
For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page where movies are organized from best to worst!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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