When I first saw the trailer for Knights Of Badassdom I knew that I was going to love it. Well, I felt very strongly that I was going to love it. It had a great cast and a premise that I thought couldn't fail. Unfortunately, the film was held back for a long, long time before finally being released, after a great deal of studio interference, apparently. It would be nice to see the original movie that director Joe Lynch intended people to see, but it's hard to think of any improvements that would turn this into something truly great. As it stands, it's massively disappointing, mainly because of how it fails to fully exploit the brilliant central idea.
Steve Zahn and Peter Dinklage play a couple of guys who enjoy a bit of LARP (Live Action Role Playing) now and again. They drag their buddy (Ryan Kwanten) along to a big event, in order to cheer him up after he was unceremoniously ditched by his girlfriend, and start to play. Unfortunately, one of the props being used for the game is a bit too real, and one of the main character unwittingly summons a demon that quickly starts preying on the helpless LARPers all around.
What do you think? Sounds fantastic, right? It really does, and it was that central concept that had me salivating for a long time, eager for the film to get any kind of release that would allow me to at least see the damn thing. Well, maybe Joe Lynch has some super-duper extended cut that rejigs everything and magically turns the movie into what many people hoped it would be, but I'm not holding my breath.
The main problem seems to lie with the screenplay by Matt Wall and Kevin Dreyfuss. It just doesn't pack in enough mirth, doesn't throw enough gore in to compensate, and spends far too little time with the best characters, played by Zahn and Dinklage (both on fine form). Kwanten is someone I like, but he's not treated well here. I spent many of his scenes just wishing that his character had been wiped from the movie, he was simply unnecessary and uninteresting. Summer Glau brightens things up slightly by being Summer Glau, and Jimmi Simpson is pretty hilarious for almost every moment that he's onscreen, but there's still not enough to raise this to the level of something even average.
The direction from Lynch seems to add to the mishandling of the material, but maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe all of my problems with the movie DO reflect on the studio interference more than the potential that the movie had to be something great, but we can always only ultimately critique whatever we have available to us, and this IS Knights Of Badassdom. For the time being, at least. And, in this incarnation of the movie, Lynch seems happy to go along with the undercooked helpings served up by Wall and Dreyfuss, before using the finale to turn off anyone who has watched all the way through and tried to convince themselves that it was worth the wait.
Not badass. Just bad.