Psst...hey, you. You lookin' for a movie? You into conspiracy theories? Well, then you know the moon landing was faked, right? Yeah, done on a soundstage. Kubrick? Ha! Not exactly. How do ya feel about watching Ron Perlman beating the shit outta people? Well my friend, I have just the ticket for you. I tell ya what, I'll toss in some trippy drug sequences and a couple of gun fights that would make John Woo blush. What? Can I toss in the kid from Harry Potter? Oh, not that one, the other one. Alright I can swing that, but it'll cost ya extra. And keep it on the down-low, I got a rep to protect. Here ya go, it's called Moonwalkers. Go easy on the stuff, it don't fuck around.
Moonwalkers is the debut feature from Antoine Bardou-Jacquet, whose only other credit is Wacky Races, a short that turned out to just be a rather slick car commercial using characters from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon (which will also give you a pretty good idea of his style). The film takes place in London during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, when the US was rushing to put a man on the Moon. It plays with the famed conspiracy theory about the astronaut footage being faked on a soundstage with the help of visionary director Stanley Kubrick. Moonwalkers asks, what if there really was a secret mission to fake the landing in case the real shuttle didn't make it, and what if everyone involved in the scheme was a total fuck-up? We follow CIA agent Kidman (Ron Perlman), a take-no-shit tough guy with horrible Vietnam flashbacks and a penchant for murdering anyone that gets in his way. He's tasked with hiring Kubrick to film a fake moon landing, which brings him in contact with Jonny (Rupert Grint, smoking enough cigarettes and dropping enough F-bombs to shake his Ron Weasley image), a slimy manager for a failing rock band.
Through a series of misunderstandings and coincidences, Jonny dresses his junky roommate Leon (a delightful Robert Sheehan) to look like Kubrick and con the money for the project from Kidman to pay off his debts to a local loan shark. With only a few days to spare and their lives on the line, Kidman and Jonny have to band together to get the money back and film this Moon landing, with the help of an eccentric director and his crew of drugged-out movie-making hippies. As weird as this movie sounds, it just gets weirder. From the opening shot of Kidman having a Vietnam dream to the animated opening credits that look straight out a 60's counterculture magazine, the film blows by on a sex and drug fueled bender, finding enough time to add in some well-crafted humor and plenty of ultra-violence for good measure. Neither side of that coin is fully realized or combined into a cohesive whole, but both work well in individual scenes. The satire of the government and space race is never pushed too hard, choosing instead to go for broader drug-related humor on most occasions. The action violence is brutal and pops up sporadically throughout the film, always feeling a bit jarring compared to the comedy, even if it is executed well.
All of the performers are entertaining here, but Perlman really stands out, making his character a lot more playful and vulnerable than his normal tough guy roles. His Vietnam hallucinations are mortifying and despite his violent approach to life, you really root for him as he begins to loosen up and discover himself. I also have to commend the film for having a more-or-less drug positive attitude. Sure, all the characters are shown as burnouts or fuck-ups, but they usually end up coming through (sometimes because of their drug use) and seem to be happy with their drug use. Even when Perlman has his obligatory "someone slips him LSD" scene, it actually helps him to relax and come to terms with his past, as opposed to just becoming a bad trip like you'd expect (it also happens to be one of the best sequences in the film). The mix of 60s psychedelics and modern day stylized violence actually blend together quite well for the most part, making this an enjoyable action/comedy, though one that tends to veer to far in one direction at times, steering it off-course.
The only big negative reaction I had to it comes from the sheer fact that the 60s have been done to death in film. While the angle of this story is refreshing, it still falls into some stale tropes we've seen a million times already. This makes scenes like an end montage of the US after the Moon landing, set to Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son", just downright grating. I suppose it makes sense in context, but that extended scene still felt more like a clip from an episode of The Wonder Years, instead of the finale of the film we've been watching. The last scene of the film is rather clever in how it wraps up the characters' story and then we're treated to an end credits sequence full of tubby men and large chickens bouncing up and down in slow motion (you'll get it later). While not anything entirely groundbreaking or masterful, Moonwalkers is a really solid debut feature. The bizarre cast of characters and unique story make for a fun 90 minutes with some definite rewatch value. Moonwalkers is available to rent on Amazon.
6 out of 10 Flying Jellyfish