Knights of Badassdom film review
Knights of Badassdom (2014)
Ryan Kwanten, Peter Dinklage, Steve Zahn, Summer Glau, Margarita Levieva, Jimmi Simpson
Entertainment One Films
CRITIC’S RATING: ** 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
The 2011 horror comedy Knights of Badassdom’s behind-the-scenes shenanigans may unintentionally rival the cheeky antics you see in front of the camera. The fact that this impish medieval fright farce is finally getting its release in 2014 after sitting on the back burners for three-plus years collecting dust in Hollywood makes for interesting speculation.
The backstory as to the stagnation of Knights of Badassdom’s delayed distribution seems rather sketchy considering the static involved about some creative friction concerning the film’s director Joe Lynch and his questionable editing techniques versus the dismay of the movie’s producers. Naturally, the stalled release boils down to the philosophical stand-off sentiment of either “doing it my way or hitting the highway”. Now that Knights of Badassdom has finally seen some daylight after sitting on the shelves in obscurity the question remains: will the Middle Ages mockery combined with the passion of devoted live action role-playing enthusiasts (a.k.a “reenactors”) set to the background of a demonic murder mystery in the woods tickle the fancy of its intrigued audience?
Actually, the premise for Knights of Badassdom is quite ambitious in its nutty concept. It certainly brings to mind all the corrective irreverence and high-minded goofy imagination that 2011’s annoying and monotonous medieval farce Your Highness failed to do so miserably. One cannot dismiss the opportunity for Badassdom to hit its mark now especially when the popularity of such period piece fare as the immensely revered HBO drama Game of Thrones is such a pop cultural thrill nowadays (not to mention that Badassdom co-star Peter Dinklage is all the rage courtesy of his famed affiliation with the highly touted Thrones–a great selling point to convince his ready-made fans to check out his participation as a quirky Knight).
As a satire, Knights of Badassdom has its inspired ridiculous moments when it skews the reenactment community–worshiping adults living out a cherished fantasy to escape otherwise mundane existences (in all fairness there are also stable live action role-playing gamers that are successful in their “real lives” that find reenactment fantasies as a constructive distraction to their rewarding careers as well). The connection between poking fun at the slacker grown-ups that embrace this leisurely practice and dipping into the ridiculed dimensions of hackneyed horror flicks is devilishly fun and nonsensical. Badassdom does effectively carry out its contrived zaniness but lives dangerously close to wearing out its welcome as a one-joke gesture. Thankfully, the cast is up to the challenge of giving this horror/sci-fi macabre Middle Ages romp its appreciative loopy legs to enjoy with guilty pleasure abandonment. The Knights of Badassdom is indeed an acquired taste as it is strangely inventive in its instilled wackiness. It convincingly runs circles around the half-hearted horror offerings that invite the same old recycled titillation.
Joe (Ryan Kwanten from TV’s “True Blood”) is a mechanic and part-time metal-head musician whose relationship with his girlfriend Beth (Margarita Levieva from TV’s “Revenge”) is dwindling because she feels he should being doing something more useful with his professional and personal talents. Feeling down-and-out by Beth’s piece of reality check, Joe decides to join his roommate buddies Hung and Eric (Peter Dinklage and “Dallas Buyers Club’s” Steve Zahn) on a medieval festival retreat to drown his sorrows and partake in his pals’ heralded reenactment hobby. Soon, Joe is dressed down in Middle ages garb and finds his interaction with other geeky live-action role players (or “LARPs”) kind of stimulating.
The medieval reenactment games are under the tutelage of head honcho Ronnie (Jimmi Simpson). Ronnie’s ill-advised request to get his costumed squad to revive Joe during an overnight chanting session turns surrealistically haywire. It is Eric’s recited mumbo-jumbo spell inviting a deadly demon into their make-believe world of swords and armor. What is also a smack in the face to Joe is that the demonic beast in question has assumed the physical appearance of his former love interest Beth. Yikes!
So poor Joe and his tattered teammates (among the endangered group is the shapely and desirable Gwen as portrayed by Summer Glau) must ace off against this dastardly demon diva that routinely is feeding off the body parts of these diehard LARPs. No question that Joe and his exposed posse are sitting ducks and can not combat the “beastly Beth” with pretend Anglo-Saxon jargon or the gaming weaponry that brought to life their Dungeons and Dragons phase. Will Joe find a way to resolve his futile fantasy of wizards and warriors as he faces the overwhelming malaise that rules both his reality and now fictional livelihood?
Knights of Badassdom is an uneven creepy concoction but still somewhat excels at mixing its cheesy lampooning of LARP-oriented escapism with the cliched grossness of tired horror flicks. It is feisty and joyously absurd if one allows this unconventional low-budget costumed monster flick to work its off-kilter magic.
NOTE: Focus of New York film critic Frank Ochieng is a member of: