TMN Movie Review: "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn"

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A physician accidentally tells an obnoxious patient that he has an aggressive cancer and only 90 minutes to live. As the patient races around the city, trying to right his wrongs, the doctor attempts to find him. A comedy-drama directed by Phil Alden Robinson, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is a remake of the 1997 Israeli film Mar Baum, written and directed by Assi Dayan. The movie's cast includes Robin Williams, Mila Kunis, Peter Dinklage, Melissa Leo & James Earl Jones.
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Rating: R
Length: 83 minutes
Release Date: May 23, 2014
Directed by: Phil Alden Robinson
Genre: Comedy / Drama

Robin Williams returns to the big screen in a leading role with "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn." Directed by Phil Alden Robinson, the film is a showcase for the manic talents of the comedian, giving him the chance to indulge in the high-energy humor that brought him to fame in the first place. The film tempers the chaos with a strong emotional current of regret and loss, providing a dark backdrop to the zaniness.

Williams plays Henry Altmann, a particularly miserable and hate-filled human being. Henry finds himself in the doctor's office suffering from unexplained headaches, waiting for his diagnosis. He takes the opportunity to lay out a litany of his petty annoyances to Dr. Sharon Gill (Mila Kunis). When she finally tells him he's suffering from a brain aneurysm, he demands to know how much time he has left. Gill is so annoyed with his attitude that she snaps, "90 minutes." Altmann bolts from the office, determined to use those 90 minutes to reconcile with his friends and family before it's too late. Gill, on the other hand, is horrified at what she's done and races after him to try to correct her diagnosis and get Altmann the medical care he needs for his condition.

Altmann races to meet with his wife Bette (Melissa Leo), his brother Aaron (Peter Dinklage) and his son Tommy (Hamish Linklater), all driven away by the abrasive personality he developed after the death of Tommy's brother years earlier. None of them are particularly interested in his sudden change of heart, however, thinking it merely a ploy. When Dr. Gill arrives to explain the situation, however, they realize the gravity of Altmann's condition. The rest of the film plays out as Altmann tries to perform his misguided and cobbled-together bucket list while those who still care about him try to return him to sanity. His plans get more and more desperate as he realizes just how badly he's screwed up his life.

"The Angriest Man in Brooklyn" features a rich supporting cast, including Richard Kind, James Earl Jones and Louis C.K. in a brief cameo. Unfortunately, the film's pace results in too few great moments with these characters and more time devoted to Altmann's missed opportunities for reconciliation with his family members. Ultimately, the tale centers around Altmann's search for his remaining son, estranged due to differences over his intended career. Altmann must swallow his pride and his discontent about his son's life choices in order to regain his acceptance.

The film's writing and pacing are its weak points, with the story whipsawing violently between dark humor and maudlin sadness. Every angry mistake of Altmann's life becomes a sudden regret as he realizes he doesn't have enough time to make up for everything. The message is clear, if a bit heavy handed, asking the audience whether or not they would be satisfied with their choices if they had such a short time to wrap up their own loose ends.

The biggest problem may be the believability of the film's opening, that a doctor could be so exasperated with a patient that she would deliver such a spiteful prognosis. Altmann is obnoxious, but he's hardly obnoxious enough to merit that kind of mistake. However, it does provide a good enough reason for Dr. Gill to chase him through Manhattan in an attempt to rectify her malpractice and places her in the role of Altmann's unwitting life coach.

Since Altmann has so little time to spend with each of the supporting characters, Williams ends up carrying most of the movie's narrative himself. Fans of his manic style will enjoy the full-speed romp while those who have less of a taste for his erratic comedy might find the whole exercise a little tiring. The fast-paced, frantic quest is intercut with flashbacks detailing just where Altmann's life went wrong, providing emotional weight to his actions at the cost of derailing the pace of the film.

Ultimately, "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn" is a film that tries to use its dark humor to teach a lesson about how anger can destroy lives and relationships. Fans of Robin Williams will enjoy yet another chance to experience his unique comic style and pacing, even if he doesn't manage as masterful a job as he did in 2009's "World's Greatest Dad." In the end, he does a capable job portraying a man taught unexpected lessons about love, loss and acceptance, offering up the moral that you never can tell when you will face life's curtain call.