MRR Review: "Knights of Badassdom"

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Live-action role players conjure up a demon from Hell by mistake and they must deal with the consequences.
3.5

Rating: R
Length: 86 minutes
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Directed by: Joe Lynch
Genre: Adventure / Comedy / Fantasy

Entertainment One Films' "Knights of Badassdom" follows three best friends as they head to the woods to re-enact a Dungeons and Dragons-like scenario straight out of the mythical Middle Ages. Trouble comes quickly after they unwittingly conjure up the evil of the blood-lusting Succubus, from the pits of hell. Though a trailer was released at San Diego's Comic Con in 2011, the film first aired at Israel's Icon Festival, and it made its theatrical debut in the United States on Jan. 21, 2014. The bloody adventure-comedy was filmed in and around Spokane, Wash., and was directed by Joe Lynch and written by Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall.

When stuck-up Beth (Margarita Levieva) dumps the irresponsible and lazy Joe (Ryan Kwanten), his roommates Hung (Peter Dinklage) and Eric (Steve Zahn) treat him with a bottle of whiskey and a bong to nurse his heartbreak. Joe soon awakens in full body armor at a campsite descended upon by medieval re-enactors. Under the guidance of game master Ronnie (Jimmi Simpson) the team attempts to bring Joe back to life. However, during a wizard ritual, via an old book purchased off the Internet, Eric accidentally summons a murderous demon disguised as Beth that snacks on the hearts of the unsuspecting players with no mercy.

Teaming up with a handful of misfits to include Lando (Danny Pudi), Gunther (Brett Gipson) and Gunther's cousin Gwen (Summer Glau), Joe soon finds himself facing off against the otherworldly beast. Failure is not an option, and the battle likely will in disastrous consequences.

Fantasy and reality soon collide on the Fields of Evermore in an epic battle of make-believe wizards, demons and an assortment mythical creatures. Courage and friendship are put to the test in this attempt to destroy the evil that they have summoned. The plot centers around one question: Will the group prove to be merely foam sword-wielding live-action, role-playing enthusiasts — LARPers — or true "Knights of Badassdom?"

The flick certainly does not lack star power in Kwanten (HBO's "True Blood"), Levieva (TV's "Revenge"), the diminutive Dinklage (HBO's "Game of Thrones"), Glau ("Firefly" and "Serenity") and Zahn ( "Treme," and "Comanche Moon"). Lynch is a well-known figure in the music industry, with past work in directing videos for DVDA, Godhead, Pete Yorn, Strapping Young Lad and 311. Though not a big name in the movie industry, he is no stranger to the horror genre and has made many appearances at "Weekend of Horrors" conventions, so the film does have some appeal to an already existing — yet small — fan base.

One question left unanswered surrounds the character of Joe. He is an underachieving mechanic and metal musician dumped for not doing more with his communications studies degree. Unlike other flicks portraying similar character flaws, the film does not bother to address Joe's heartbreaking split and his general irresponsibility.

To many fans of the genre, "Knights of Badassness" brings back memories of the 2011 James Franco-Danny McBride comedy "Your Highness," with most claiming "Knights" to be an upgrade. One thing of note is that the crew in "Knights of Badassdom" does seem to truly enjoy their roles, though the script is certainly void of the magic seen in "Game of Thrones."

The fake Olde English speech does get old and tiresome quickly, and it is even less realistic when undercut by slang and modern references. Additionally, the clever hit-point system, demonstrated early on by the on-screen +1s, quickly disappears. This leaves much to be desired from the audience. Furthermore, an ineffective mix of cheesiness and gruesomeness does leave the film without much of an identity, but the film will not disappoint those looking for a funny, light-hearted adventure.

A clash between producers and director Joe Lynch over his edit resulted in producer's taking their time to piece together their preferred version, and, ultimately nearly a two-year delay in release.

While the film is certain to grab the attention of LARPers, the film lacks appeal to standard moviegoers. Due to limited screenings (request-only outside Los Angeles) the film has not generated much fanfare, with most forced to wait for the DVD or on-demand release. For "Dungeons and Dragons" enthusiasts, and those that see live action role-playing as a cultural phenomenon, the film ranges from decent to entertaining. However, casual moviegoers should go into the movie with limited expectations and look for nothing more than an easygoing adventure comedy.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5