Starring Mickey Rourke, Nat Wolff, Emma Roberts, Sarah Silverman, Kevin Dunn
Nat Wolff continues to win me over with his relatable comic humor. Most widely known as the blind kid in The Fault in Our Stars, Wolff was most recently seen in the forgettable teenage drama Paper Towns. Ashby provides the 20 year old with his most fully fleshed out character yet. Mickey Rourke continues to keep himself relevant with large mainstream franchises and little gems like Ashby where he plays the title character. The actors or even the characters are not problem here, it’s the script from mostly television writer/director Tony McNamara that is uneven and unsure of what genre it’s in.
17-year-old Ed Wallis (Wolff) and his mom (Silverman) have just moved from Oregon to Virginia where they are beginning a new life. Ed is socially awkward, but very intelligent. He happens to be attending a high school primarily regarded for football, and he makes it his mission to make the team. His motives for football emerge overtime, but it’s the next door neighbor that catches his attention. The more he finds out about Ashby Holt (Rourke) the more interesting and dangerous their unique friendship becomes. The father figure he never had, Ed agrees to drive the ailing old man around, unaware his neighbor is a hitman coming out of retirement after 20 years to right some wrongs before the grave.
Comparisons to Grand Torino should be made, but don’t worry Eastwood fans, Ashby doesn’t have the talent or skill to match it. Rourke looks like a very unsteady version of Robert Downey Jr. about 15 years into the future. His wild personality and plaid on plaid dress code is humorous and eclectic, thankfully never over the top. The film belongs to charismatic Wolff with his father issues, trying to help his lose mother, be a man, and figure out life. The script asks too much of our lead character as he is divided up into far too many subplots all co-existing in one film that is splintered into a variety of genres.
One of my favorite lines of straight talk from Ashby is when he decided to explain to Ed exactly what kind of father he has. “You need to recognize a garbage can when you see one”. In brief moments, usually while Ed chauffeurs Ashby, the film finds its stride and rhythm as a coming of age story with valuable life lessons. The teenage romance involving Emma Roberts is cute but ultimately paper thin predictable. While there may not be a coming of age story involving a hitman already out there, Ashby still doesn’t feel all that original or authentic. In the end it’s a picture for Wolff to sharpen his craft and nothing more.
Rourke & Wolff share a nice bond in a less than original script.