Monday, March 7, 2011

A Decade of Dreck #46: Broken Bridges

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more information about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far. 

This is it, folks! We've officially entered into "worse than Gigli" territory!

This movie disappointed me for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that it was not an action thriller starring Jeff and Beau Bridges as hitmen who are also brothers and who have, unbeknownst to them, been hired to kill each other by their own father (played via archival footage by Lloyd Bridges). Now isn't that a movie that would score at least above 8% on Rotten Tomatoes?

I don't not like country music, but it has been one of those genres that has been hard for me to penetrate for reasons demographic and otherwise. It's sort of like hip hop: I love the Wu-Tang Clan, the Notorious B.I.G., Kanye West, and a handful of others, but I've never been able to embrace the genre as a whole because at the end of the day I'm still a rich white kid from suburban Minneapolis. The same goes for country: I'm too self-conscious to not feel like a poseur. That being said, I loved Crazy Heart last year (Jeff Bridges references, you can't avoid them; I just got Jeff'd again!) and I do think there is something great and pure and universal that can come from a good country song.

Brought to us by those wonderful folks at Country Music Television, Broken Bridges is the cinematic equivalent of the opposite of what I just described. Which makes sense because it stars Toby Keith as...Toby Keith?

I have a rather simply complex relationship with Mr. Keith. The man has exactly two songs of his that I like: "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue (the Angry American)" and "Beer For My Horses". "Courtesy" started out as pseudo-hipster ironic appropriation of jingoism that became something awesome and real the more I forced it upon people via barroom jukeboxes. As for "Beer For My Horses", there's a part of my brain that has to block out the fact that this awesome song about good old American vigilante justice is actually probably about a lynch mob, the bad kind of lynch mob.

Aside from these two outliers though, Toby Keith is still just that music I hear played at rest stops along Interstate 90 in Indiana. Broken Bridges is heir to the "proud" tradition of musicians transitioning to acting by playing...musicians in movies. Think Get Rich or Die Tryin' but if 50 Cent was from Oklahoma and could enunciate.

Come to think of it, scratch that part about enunciation.

Keith plays washed-up (what range!) country singer Bo Price. Bo is called back to his boyhood home in small town Tennessee when his brother dies when his plane crashes during Army training. The accident also claims the life of the brother of Bo's high school sweetheart Angela (Kelly Preston). Somewhat awkwardly, the tragedy drawn the two back into each other's lives and they're forced to confront their pasts, namely the fact that Bo left Angela at the altar pregnant with her now-teenage daughter. Maybe country music and down home values will bring them back together? Maybe...

I suppose I should have known this going in, but this movie is just plain aggravatingly schmaltzy. From the second Bo and Angela come back to Tennessee, we the viewers are bombarded with an endless wave of "Aw shucks"es and people calling complete strangers "Sir" and "Ma'am" which is just plain creepy to this yankee. The daughter, Dixie is our outsider along for the ride meant to ease us city folk into this environment, but she's such a caricature of urban elitism and cluelessness it's bordering on hilarious. Listen, no one is going to ask where the local sushi restaurant is in a part of the country where people consider counties to a proper means of explaining one's location.

Then there's Keith, our leading man. Honestly, this movie almost works if you imagine his incomprehensible mumblings and general lack of screen presence as some sort of stoic Southern nobility, but the fact is simply that Toby Keith is such a bad actor he can't even play himself.

I think the only character I liked in this movie was Burt Reynolds who appears as Preston's disapproving-in-all-things father. He spends the entire two hours expressing how perturbed he is about everything going on in the town. Seriously, the untimely death of his only son seems to do little more than vex him slightly more. I sympathize: I didn't care and I hate everybody.

In the end, Bo calls in a favor from Willie Nelson and they have a concert to benefit the families of the soldiers killed in the accident, which is nice of him. Also, he and Angela get back together to raise Dixie who in turn learns that country is just punk rock for hicks.

Broken Bridges is ranked #72 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 5% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.