What Doesn't Kill You - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

What Doesn't Kill You Reviews

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December 18, 2016
April 2009
December 2016
½ September 26, 2016
Good film and story.
May 19, 2016
160519: An evenly paced but captivating film. A bit harsh for guilt-ridden men.
February 1, 2016
Boston crime drama starring Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke. The scope of the story which is based on the life of the director struggles to fill the running time and Ruffalo doesn't seem a particularly good fit for the role.
Super Reviewer
½ March 20, 2015
"I'm sick of all this nickel and dime bullshit"

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.

Mark Walker
February 1, 2015
This has been lingering around for years and only just out on DVD i was expecting something dire but it was an ok watch. Hawke is really electric and on edge throughout and his scenes with Ruffalo are really good. Nothing new but well acted and a true story. 2 Brothers and their life of crime, one goes one way the other the other.
Super Reviewer
January 1, 2015
A drama - crime movie with a few decent actors like Ethan Hawke , Mark Ruffalo and Donnie Wahlberg in a smaller role. The movie are actually quite decent and have a story that kept me interested til the end. Altho the movie could have been more intense perhaps ,, more action because its rather slow time to time. I have seen much better similar movie in this genre. But overall its a decent "average" flick but not quite a high priority one..
December 29, 2014
This is Ruffalo's film all the way; the story is sluggish and predictable.
September 21, 2014
Not terrible, but very bland and formless in its structure and direction. Goodman shows that just because you lived the story doesn't mean you should be the one to tell it, and that film directing isn't something you can just walk into. Recommended for Ruffalo and Hawke, who do pretty good work, but not much else.
January 6, 2014
Liked this more than I expected to, it's a story that's been told before but great performances from Hawke and especially Ruffalo -whose struggle going straight (and clean) really captured me. I liked how this was filmed to appear gritty and cold. The ending could have been better, I was at first confused by 'Brian's' view of what could happen, thinking it did happen and then to just get a written epilogue of the fate of Paulie was a wasted opportunity. I wanted to see how that played out not just get a by-the-way. The story wouldn't be complete without a Wahlberg (they seem to be in all things Boston) and here Donnie plays a detective. 10/13

" 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."
½ December 27, 2013
story of a man trying to leave the crime world for the sake of his family. Mark Ruffalo acts the character with brilliance. even though bit depressing not a bad movie.
December 14, 2013
It's the choices we make in life that shapes who we are.
November 17, 2013
It's definitely a B movie, but you won't mind. If anyone really understands the life of crime and drug use, they will appreciate the struggle of this character.
½ November 6, 2013
I felt they could have done a better job at emphasizing the anti-climatic nature of the films ending but aside from that What Doesn't Kill You is great from start to finish. By combining subtle direction with a script that stays true to actual events,we're left with a piece of cinema that's visceral in all the right places and emotionally resonant due to its sense of realism.
½ October 19, 2013
The story, setting and character types are all very familar from various other movies that have come before but despite this I was never bored. It was a gripping crime drama with well written characters that were played out well by the actors involved.
October 10, 2013
It's a solid performance from Ruffalo with Hawke taking a back seat, supporting well enough. Doesn't have the cutting edge heist action of The Town but it's a nice little drama.
September 7, 2013
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
August 28, 2013
Stupid, crap, boring
½ March 23, 2013
I really disliked WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU. It's a thoroughly generic "gritty crime drama" that has not one original moment and not one single character to root for or even find any originality in. The only thing preventing this from being a one-star film are the authentic Boston locations and the fact that Mark Ruffalo and Amanda Peet are in it. Their talents are wasted...but I just like both these actors.

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!
March 3, 2013
An alright crime drama flick, but one can not help feeling as if they have seen and heard this story many times before.
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.
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