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I'm not really a dog person, mostly because barking makes me sad. Even so, if someone were to hurt my cat (hilariously named Kitty by my much younger self), I would be quite unhappy. I probably wouldn't go on a murderous rampage, but can I really begrudge a man who does after being hurt on such a personal level?
Yes. Yes I can. But it makes for good cinema.
Revenge for Jolly!
Usually revenge movies dwell on the moment of horror, the one that makes the revenge feel justified. The evil villain grins as the helpless wife/child/whatever is brutally murdered, and the audience knows that that son of a bitch deserves exactly what's coming to him. Revenge for Jolly! does not. It leaves the moment up to the imagination (though it shows the result), and lets the fact that it's a small (seriously tiny), helpless dog drive the rest of the events. Were it a serious film, this probably wouldn't be enough, but it's not at all. Pretty much everything (dog death aside) is played for laughs, and that makes an otherwise flimsy justification for murdering a lot of people feel adequate.
Harry (Brian Petsos), Jolly's owner, is joined by his cousin, Cecil (Oscar Isaac), on his tirade. They don't know who they're looking for, but they slowly piece it together, piece by bloody piece. Over the course of their journey, they consume entirely too much alcohol (and spend an inordinate amount of time driving, tsk tsk) and other substances, which makes their reactions slow down a bit by the time the big moment comes. With the exception of a stint in a Mexican restaurant though, where their blood-alcohol levels probably go well beyond lethal, they are pretty much always on the warpath.
And what a warpath it is. They meet an all-star cast including Gillian Jacobs (Britta Perry from Community), Elijah Wood, and Kristen Wiig, among others, and a large number of them stop being alive (though I won't say who, because not all of them do). The deaths are swift and brutal, and loud. The intensity of the audio from Harry's pistol is on the level of that first shot in Drive, which literally made me jump in my seat.
Revenge for Jolly's sense of humor is what really sets it apart. It's a dark comedy in every sense of the word, and a lot of the jokes would probably be kind of scary out of context, but they definitely work here. I laughed more than the majority of the other people in the theater, though, so your mileage may vary. Regardless, the best comedy comes from the interactions between Harry and Cecil. There's a lot of time alone with the two of them, mostly when they're in the car together, and there's some really great chemistry. When other people get involved, they work even better. The way they play off each other when in mixed company is great. They are definitely among the better comedic pairs I have seen in a long time.
But, bizarre as it may sound, I felt like it could have gone further. I wish there had been more scenes like the one in the Mexican restaurant. Seeing the way people react to Cecil and Harry in a setting where nobody is being killed was fantastic, and I feel like there was some untapped potential there. I also wish I'd seen a bit more of the pair of them while sober. The two of them spend the vast majority of the time drinking or whatever, which is funny enough, but it seemed more than a bit excessive at times.
Even so, I really enjoyed the film. It's funny, it's violent, and it's got revenge. I love revenge. Whether the revenge is justified or not, revenge is great. Revenge for Jolly! may not be on the level of a Korean revenge film like Bedevilled, but it's more than enough to be a fine bit of entertainment.
Hubert Vigilla: When Revenge for Jolly! is on, it's on fire. There's an energetic absurdity to it fueled by beer and pills, and it does violent slapstick and psychotic deadpan well. But for some reason there are completely humorless lulls in Jolly!, and they usually come up after the movie is onto something good. It's like driving across a city at night and hitting every single stoplight along the way, each one going red just as you get to the intersection. In those long lulls, I was begging for added absurdity or just anything propulsive and interesting. There are also some gags that build for too long without decent payoff, a bit like those jokes that go on and on and end with a really dumb punchline. Similarly, the celebrity cameos were mostly wasted, two in particular were disappointing. While discussing one would give something away, they squander David "Sledge Hammer" Rasche, which is a shame. In some states, it's also a crime. 53 - Average