‘A Bad Idea Gone Wrong’: Film Review | SWSW 2017

Two bumbling thieves get more than they bargained for when they break into a house in Jason Headley’s debut feature, ‘A Bad Idea Gone Wrong.’

Writer/director Jason Headley’s debut feature represents the sort of unassuming, low-key comedy whose minor pleasures become magnified when showcased amid film festival dross. But it nonetheless signifies a talent to watch. A Bad Idea Gone Wrong should find appreciative audiences in home viewing formats thanks to its quirky humor, enhanced by terrific performances from its cast, who won a special jury prize for best ensemble cast at SXSW.

Beginning with a conversation in a diner that doesn’t shy away from directly referencing a similar scene in Pulp Fiction, the story concerns longtime friends Marlon (Matt Jones) and Leo (Will Rogers) hatching a robbery to pay off some bills. After pondering several potential victims, Leo suggests a well-appointed home in a nearby gated community. The two men manage to get into the house by hiding in the trunk of a pizza delivery car whose driver they’ve bribed, but in the process, Marlon accidentally arms the security alarm, effectively trapping them inside.

The Bottom Line

This witty, low-key comedy features terrific performances from its three leads.

That’s when the fun and surprises begin, as the pair encounter Darcy (Eleanore Pienta), a scantily clad young woman sleeping in the master bedroom who informs them that she’s housesitting. They tie her up, but she turns out to be far more resourceful than they assumed. We soon learn that she’s not quite who she said she was, and that Leo’s selection of the house was far from random.

The convoluted proceedings, which include a suspenseful encounter with a suspicious security guard, are infused with witty dialogue and surprising comic twists (with some not hard to foresee). Whether it’s Leo, accompanying Darcy to the bathroom so she can do “No. 2,” asking her for a “mercy flush,” or Marlon having to explain to everyone that his name is spelled like the actor, not the fish, the screenplay consistently produces moments that induce chuckles, if not belly laughs. There’s also just enough well-earned sentiment thrown in to provide a nice counterpoint to the farcical humor.

Director Headley cannily keeps the action fast-paced so that we’re not allowed to dwell on the plot’s far-fetched aspects. But, as the festival prize indicates, the film’s primary asset is its cast. The veteran Jones — who’s had regular roles on many television series, including Breaking Bad and Mom — and Rogers (Bridge of Spies, The Bay) display a terrific, Laurel and Hardy-style chemistry, and Pieta makes for a sexy comic foil, especially in a scene depicting the tensions resulting from Leo and Darcy’s impulsive roll in the hay. All three characters are appealing enough to make you want to become reacquainted with them in a possible, more ambitious, sequel.

Production companies: Red Entertainment, Ten Acre Films
Cast: Matt Jones, Eleanore Pienta, Will Rogers, Jonny Mars, Jenny Marie Jemison, Sam Edison
Director-screenwriter: Jason Headley
Producers: Kelly Williams, Jonathan Duffy, Red Sanders
Executive producers: Craig Kelly, Doug Oppenheimer, Lisa Retted, Mac Lawson, Luther King
Director of photography: Nathan Smith
Production designer: Brittany Ingram
Editor: Tim Fender
Costume designer: Shannon Dowling
Composer: Alex Cuero
Venue: South by Southwest (Narrative Feature Competition)

85 minutes