Good for Nothing – Movie Review

This film overflows with Kiwi humor that, unfortunately, will be lost on many audiences.

New director Mike Wallis brings you something completely different in the spaghetti western romantic comedy “Good for Nothing.” If you think it’s so easy, try it.

Inge Rademeyer plays English woman of breeding Isabella Montgomery, on the way to her father’s ranch. As she disembarks from the stagecoach a funny thing happens. “The Man” (Cohen Holloway—“Boy” and “Eagle vs. Shark”) shows up and falls in love with her.

We know it is true love, because he kills everybody in the room who has lain eyes on the luscious and oh so vulnerable Inge. As the film goes on, more men lay eyes on the love of The Man’s life and more men die. Such are the ways of the old west.

Except this is not exactly the Old West, it is Old West, New Zealand Style, combined with a Mad Magazine treatment of “The Rifleman” from the 1960’s. There are elements of “High Plains Drifter,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Bonnie and Clyde” flavored with John Wayne tongue-in-cheek toughness and “Blazing Saddles” irony.

It will come as no surprise that most of the folks watching this slugfest will not get the joke. They will take it seriously, which is a big mistake.

All goes well for The Man as he kidnaps the comely Isabella. His problems start when he tries to, as he puts it, “poke her.” The poker will not poke, if you get the drift. This sets The Man off on a quixotic search for the right medicine to cure his problem.

Meanwhile, a posse pursues, bent on revenge. What is more, the dim-witted self-appointed sheriff has concluded that the kidnapped woman is The Man’s accomplice. When posse-for-hire concludes that the whole affair sounds like a lot of work, what with the riding, shooting, and all, the new sheriff doubles the pay of the man who kills the woman.

This sort of leap-frogging nonsensical pretzel logic pursues the heroes and villains alike as the story unfolds. There is a hilarious duel (actually, a couple duels) where neither marksman can quite hit the target. Of course, this is not fiction it is fact.

Those old firearms were dreadfully inaccurate and hard to shoot. The fantasy of the gunslinger always hitting the bad guy on the first try was Hollywood’s invention, not actual history. So “Good for Nothing” mixes in quite a bit of truth where we expect to see fiction. The end result is pretty funny, if you play along with the joke.

In any event, what is the fun of seeing Clint Eastwood always nail the guy right between the eyes, even shooting from beneath his apron while getting a shave? The more likely scenario was Billy the Kid sneaking up on someone in the darkness outside the bar and drilling then from two feet away.

Great work by DP Mathew Night in capturing the wide-open west in the wide-open heart of the South island of New Zealand. As it turns out, the shooting took place in the same area used as the backdrop for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy for which director Wallis served on the visual effects team. The effect is quite amazing, it looks just like Jesse James’ plains of Kansas and Missouri combined with the Lone Ranger’s craggy outcroppings of his Hollywood soundstage.

There is even a Tonto, of sorts, in the brief but sidesplitting performance by Maori actor Toa Waaka as the “Native American Medicine Man.” Once again, filmmaker Wallis manages to satirize the American Western with the best of them.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra performs the score. No kidding. As the hero rides the open plains pursued by the relentless, and feckless, posse, the music swells to an unbelievable crescendo that fills the theatre and causes the audience to exclaim, “Where did he get a symphony?” Well, he got one, and the result is awesome.

First-rate performances by Jon Pheloung as The Sheriff and the rag-tag crew that makes up the posse (best of the posse is “Mexican Tracker” Barnie Duncan who engages in the ill-thought-out duel with The Sheriff).

This film overflows with Kiwi humor that, unfortunately, will be lost on many audiences. See it anyway, you will not be sorry.

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Directed and Written by: Mike Wallis
Starring: Cohen Holloway, Inge Rademeyer and Jon Pheloung
Release Date: March 9, 2012
MPAA: Rated R for violence and some sexual references
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Country: New Zealand
Language: English