Sundance Review: The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete


In the extended cut of The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, the film ends with a sack of puppies being beaten by a baseball bat and then set aflame. Director George Tillman, Jr. (Men of Honor, Notorious) doesn’t exactly display a great amount of subtlety or kindness to his characters throughout the film’s two hours of misery.

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
Director: George Tillman, Jr.
Rating: NR
Country: USA
Release Date: January 18, 2013 (Sundance Film Festival)

Mister and Pete follows two boys in the ghetto, who need to live on their own for a summer after their mothers choose crack addiction over parenting (never the right choice, people!) The projects of Brooklyn are even worse than Yelp reviews suggest. There are the given thugs who bully and steal your TVs, but here are some unsavory characters you may not have heard about: The creepy old lady next door that molests you, the emotionless cops that act as boogeymen with the ability magically appear, the crazy homeless that yell and threaten, and, last but not least, the grocery store clerk that puts a 14-year-old into a choke hold in daylight in the middle of the street for no good reason. It’s a scary place, that Brooklyn, especially when a Spike Lee curated soundtrack isn’t in effect.

What turns Mister and Pete‘s endless series of tragedies into something of a farce is the heavy handedness in representing the ghetto. The never-ending hostility is hard to believe. I can believe in this mother that talks to her son as she shoots up. What I can’t believe is that some mystery man at a family restaurant will nod to her across the room and then she’d go and give him a blowjob in the restroom. Mister and Pete is full of moments like this that take something believable and real, then push things to extremes that defy reasoning. All of these awful things might happen, but only in a Todd Solondz black comedy would I accecpt them happening in sequence.

And then, there are the characters and actions that magically appear or happen to service the film’s message that you need to lean on your neighbor in the ghetto and not turn down help when you need it. This message is strange because the film is about two kids who are left with no one to lean on, besides an old tenant who now lives in a downtown highrise and sporadically appears outside Mister’s home for no apparent reason. Then there is the cop who suddenly resembles something like a human, only to give the cheesiest line of the film.

I’d continue and say the young, quiet Asian boy that plays Pete acts like how I imagine a 14-year-old that has been water-boarded for two weeks would act, but after two hours of watching horrendous things happen to kids, I just can’t aim my crosshair at anything other than the director and writer of the film. They not only do a poor job representing the ghetto and the everyday struggles of life, they also marginalize Pete, turning him into something like an Asian sidekick along for the laughs and occasional moments of empathy. If only the film’s message were as clear as the heavy handed methods used; clear like the one-dimenional villainous characters and the sappy piano played during monologue.