What Doesn't Kill You Reviews
The Best Supporting Actor nominations in this year's Oscars was arguably the toughest category of any. We had screen legend Robert Duvall in The Judge, a rejuvenated Edward Norton in Birdman, deserved winner J.K. Simmons in Whiplash and Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke for Foxcatcher and Boyhood respectively. But, like me, what you may not have known is the latter two had already shared the screen together in true life crime drama What Doesn't Kill You.
Paulie (Ethan Hawke) and Brian (Mark Ruffalo) are a couple of small time hoods who can only muster some small change from their petty crimes. This puts a strain on their personal lives and the bosses they work for so they decide to start aiming higher and branching out on their own. However, like most criminals, the deeper they get the greater the consequences.
On the surface this looks like it's just another conventional blue-collar crime drama but on reflection it's much more than that. After it's opening heist scene, we are taken back to the early days and how Paulie and Brian got involved in their errands for local gangsters and the lack of any other opportunity presented to them. Slowly Hawke's character tails off and Ruffalo's afflicted family man takes centre stage and the film becomes more about his personal journey: trying to make ends meet; remaining loyal to his no-hoper friend; kicking his drug and alcohol addictions and supporting his wife and two sons. All the while, he's trying to stay one step ahead of the police and keep himself out of jail.
The film works primarily on it's realism. The characters feel real, the South Boston setting feels authentic and it's anchored by Hawke and, especially, Ruffalo's excellent central performances.
At one point there's a shooting (I won't say whom) but it's Pop, Pop, Pop.... there's a real sense of panic, helplessness and disorientation that you don't often see in scenes of this nature but I would have liked Goodman to inject a bit more adrenaline into his heist or robbery scenes as occasionally they can feel a little flat and not as exciting as they could've been. However, his focus on the more personal and heartfelt struggle of his characters impresses most and it's a solid directorial debut.
Unfortunately, the film wasn't marketed very well and due to the collapse of it's distributor (Yari Film Group) it was released on a very small scale. This largely contributed to it slipping through the cracks. Added to which, some of the film's posters can make it look like a cheap B-movie and the fact that it's title changed a number of times across many countries done it no favours either. It's also know as: Boston Streets, Real Men Cry and Crossing Over. As you can see, the film never really had a chance. This is a real disservice, though, as it's a fine addition to the genre and both Hawke and Ruffalo deliver some of their best work while Goodman (who also co-wrote with Donnie Wahlberg) confidently displays his understanding of this harsh and unforgiving environment.
In fairness, you'll have seen many films like it before and it doesn't really bring anything new the table but that's no reason for it to be overlooked. (And it certainly didn't deserve to be buried the way it was). If your a fan of this type of material and the leading actors, then these are reason enough to highly recommend it.
" A tough and gritty tale of two childhood friends from South Boston (Mark Ruffalo & Ethan Hawke) who graduate from a life of petty crime to working for a local organized crime boss and then try to go straight."
I was quite looking forward to this movie because of the cast and the promising advert, but as usual, I found the movie pretty disappointing. The film starts off well, but then it slows down and gets a bit boring. All of he actors put in good performances and the storyline was quite interesting, because it was true, but it takes a while to get going. The 2 main characters seem to get away with everything without any comebacks, so its turns out to be, in some ways, quite predictable. I was hoping for a violent Goodfellas, but the pace was too slow along with the storyline which could have been a lot better. Watchable!
Since 2008, Mark Ruffalo's career has blossomed by staring as the Hulk and doing a good job of it. The movie doesn't seem dated, but there was quite a few gangster movies out during this period which is why it was a good choice to bring the movie to DVD now. It doesn't fall in the same category as some of the classic gangster movies that came out during this period, but it does show a more that some people do eventually grow a conscience after doing bad throughout there life's. For entertainment, it did lack the whole "Bad Man" flavour, which was a shame because they had all of the ingredients. Maybe the director chose to stick with true events except for going for the shock value.
I recommend this movie to people who like there crime/Boston gangster movies which is based around 2 lifelong friends. 4/10
Ruffalo and his good friend Ethan Hawke have been petty crime thugs in the lower middle class neighborhood since they were kids. Doing little "errands" as kids led them to a life of doing slightly bigger, more dangerous errands...but it's all quite petty. Robbing delivery trucks seems to be their big thing...usually by first paying off the driver so that there's no risk of gunplay. They make little money, and Ruffalo, who is married to Peet and has two small children, becomes more and more anxious. Hawke is single and more volatile, but Ruffalo is more tortured, and thus turns to drugs for comfort.
You can predict almost every development of this movie. They try to strike out on their own. They get arrested. Ruffalo's marriage is full of fights. The urge to go straights butts up against the realities of trying to make a decent living. The film is populated with one clichéd character after another. Ruffalo is the troubled guy who has a decent core. Hawke the dangerous loose cannon (yes, think Affleck & Renner in THE TOWN). Peet is the wife who stays for no good reason. The one troubled kid who pushes dad away. The older petty-crime boss who works out of a bar. The veteran cop keeping an eye on things. The older ex-con who serves as an AA sponsor. It just goes on and on.
As does the movie...it drags to a silly conclusion. The movie begins with an armored car heist going wrong, but before we see the whole fallout, we jump back to the beginning. Yet when we get back to the big heist, it's a big letdown. There is virtually no other action in the movie. It's all moping around in bad weather.
Poor Amanda Peet has the worst of it. We get NO sense of her character...she's either yelling at Ruffalo or bedding him, or giving him meaningful looks. We have no idea why she's with him or why she stays. Hawke gives a very generic performance...it's the grimy Hawke of so many other movies like BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD. Ruffalo, who is such a charismatic and easy performer, flounders here with an under-written role that gives his character no real room for development. The character changes, true, but it's all arbitrary.
I blame it on the script by actors Brian Goodman and Donnie Wahlberg, who also appear in the film. All they are doing is rehashing far better crime movies. And I wouldn't even mind a predictable rehash so much if there was any pace, any character to grip me or any thread of plot that lasts more than two or three scenes. The movie is episodic and lazy.
I guess watching the movie didn't kill me, but it sure didn't make me stronger. Avoid!
Good cast, and nice to see that is was actually filmed in Boston where the story takes place.
3/2/13: Actually enjoyed this flick a little more the 2nd go round.