Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:

Title: Donnybrook

Describe This Movie In One Anchorman Quote:

RON BURGUNDY: If you want to throw down fisticuffs, fine. I've got Jack Johnson and Tom O'Leary waiting for you right here.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Ex-soldier must fight (literally) for a better life for his family.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 Quiet Men out of 5

Tagline: n/a

Better Tagline: "Fatality."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: "Jarhead Earl" (Jamie Bell) has returned from the military to find civilian life less than ideal. His wife is addicted to meth, which is supplied by the brother/sister team of "Chainsaw Angus" (Frank Grillo) and Delia (Margaret Qualley), and his kids are living in poverty. Desperate to put his wife in rehab and rescue his kids from squalor, he decides to fight in the "Donnybrook," a kind of redneck, bare knuckles Kumite with a $100,000 purse.

"Critical" Analysis: Donnybrook is based on the novel by Frank Bill, and writer/director Tim Sutton's screenplay distills the book's larger cast of characters and attendant motivations into "Jar's" singular determination to preserve his family. A noble pursuit, but one that comes with depressingly predictable consequences.

Part road movie, part rural meth noir, and (very small) part boxing flick, Donnybrook does a capable job capturing both Jar's desperation to get his wife and kids to a better place as well as the hopelessness that permeates the venture, even if it's an occasionally clumsy effort. This is a movie, after all, where at least two characters say "the world's changed" as a rationalization for their subsequent acts of brutality.

The big bad is Angus, who is a quintessential Frank Grillo character: he's intense, violent, and intensely violent. Angus deals meth, commits random murder, and horribly abuses his sister Delia to the point where you spend pretty much the entire movie wishing he would die. So, good job Frank.

Delia is really the only sympathetic person aside from Jar, and Qualley portrays her with a guilelessness bordering on naivete that renders her ultimate fate as heartbreaking as it is pointless. Sutton also appears to revel in putting Delia in dehumanizing situations, which adds another layer of repulsion.

What's worse, Delia's suffering serves no real purpose. She, along with James Badge Dale's corrupt sheriff's deputy, are two supposedly prominent characters who ironically do nothing to push the story forward. Dale's role in particular feels like it mostly ended up on the editing bay floor.

In fairness, Sutton does have a point, even if his deliberate (bordering on ponderous) direction takes its sweet time getting to it. And the symbolism inherent in extended shots of clouds scudding across spacious skies and wind rushing through waves of grain is a little hard to miss (they even perform the "Star-Spangled Banner" before the big fight).

Obvious imagery aside, Donnybrook's message is clear, and one few would argue against: there isn't a lot of hope out there for people like Jar and his family, and sometimes violence is the only way to realize the American Dream. 
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar