Thursday, February 12, 2009

Iron Jack

Genre: Dark Comedy/Action Adventure (is that even a genre?)
Synopsis: 1930s adventure book author goes in search of the Black Diamond Of The Orient
About: Sacha Baren Cohen may have been interested in playing Jack. The script sold for one million bucks.   

Writer: Johnny Rosenthan

A certain Goosetown is going to be disappointed by this review. He’s a big fan of this script, as are a lot of people. I can see how this one could gain a following. But to me it was only so-so.
Jack Bell, a 1930s Action-Adventure writer and American icon (this was back in the days when people actually respected writers) is known for his best selling tales of an Indiana Jones like character who will do anything to find the treasure. In order to push the country out of the Depression, Herbert Hoover enlists Jack to find the Black Diamond of the Orient (in his words, the “chink version of the Holy Grail”), in hopes that the real life tale of Jack's success will lift the spirits of the country and end the depression. Of course Jack’s never done anything even remotely dangerous in his life. He just writes about it. But he figures: How hard can it be?
I’m not completely sure how to review Iron Jack. I started off hating it. Then it grew on me. But it never quite got to the point where I would say I "liked it." The script is extremely well-written and gets plenty of XBOX 360 points for its originality and courage. Basically the writer, Johnny Rosenthan, uses the 1930s setting as an excuse to be as racist and as inappropriate as possible. Every race gets offended here. As someone who thinks we’ve become waaaay too sensitive, I applaud him for having the balls to make the kind of jokes that people are too afraid to make anymore. But that doesn’t mean they’re always funny. Here's a sampling. Jack's mom is trying to get him to go after the diamond, "Your father once performed Macbeth for a group of Negro school children in Harlem. They were very well behaved. If it wasn’t for the color of their skin, you would’ve thought they were Caucasian. Or at least Greek." Needless to say, check your sensitivity at the door.
Along the way Jack meets Norma, a feminist news reporter (this was back in the days where the very idea of feminism was unheard of) who hates Jack's novels. He's instantly smitten with her and seems baffled by the idea that she wouldn't want to sleep with him. Their first exchange has her carrying her luggage onto the boat. Jack observes, "Well then you should also know that even though I’m a world famous wordsmith, I believe all people, whether they be man, woman, or Irish, have the right to carry their own luggage." Norma nods appreciatively. "As a woman I appreciate your support, Mr. Bell." Norma extends her hand and smiles. "Norma Madsen. I’m with The Times. I’ve been assigned to cover your expedition." Jack shakes his head, bemused. "A female newspaper reporter? Well I guess I have seen it all!"
One of the funnier aspects of the screenplay is all the old historical figures who make appearances. Jack loses his job to Ernest Hemingway. He accidentally rips an electrical cord out of Amelia Earheart’s plane the day before her fateful flight. Lou Gherig gets bitten by a mysterious squirrel that may or may not be carrying a mysterious disease. And Jack even (okay, I predicted this one about 15 pages in) saves Hitler’s life.
All that said, Jack Bell is an odd, interesting, one-of-a-kind character and one I see a lot of comedic actors begging to play. Rumor is that Sasha Baren Cohen was swirling around the project and without question I’d see this movie if he was in it. But that *begs* the question: Can the movie get made? It's different. It's racist. You’re basically poking fun at a genre that hasn’t been around in 80 years. The tone is going to have to be pitch-perfect. I don't envy you future Iron Jack director!
In summation, I get the feeling that people will either love or hate Iron Jack. Except for me.  I'm the one person who thought it was okay, but nothing special.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Iron Jack: Don’t be afraid to be different. Studios want writers with unique voices. Johnny Rosenthan took a huge chance writing something I guarantee no reader in town had seen. It paid off. (just remember: it still has to be good J)