Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Gentlemen Broncos


Film: Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

Director: Jared Hess

Starring: Michael Angarano, Jemaine Clement, Sam Rockwell

Written by: Jared & Jerusha Hess

Imagine what would happen if Napoleon Dynamite – the film in total, not only the frizzy-haired embodiment of geek irony –  was plunged into a barrel of toxic ooze, then set loose to shamble around as its cinematic flesh rotted and peeled from its body. Along with recreating an excellent scene from Robocop, you’d also get something very similar to Gentlemen Broncos. This is one of the most hideous films I’ve seen in a while – and I mean that in the best way.

This film sees director Jared Hess attempting to return to the suburban freakshow style which made him a mint with Mr. Dynamite. Yet instead of legitimizing the fringe as he did in his former film, Hess dives into it. While Gentlemen Broncos has more of a plot than its more Seinfeldian predecessor, that fact almost seems secondary. Instead, Broncos feels like it’s trying harder to freak out its audience than to make it laugh. The plot of a boy author being plagiarized by a famed sci-fi novelist (played with great baritone self-importance by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement) pales in comparison to the terrible spectacle of a bowl-cutted, Nosferatu-mouthed Mexican kid (far and away the film’s most hideous creature) blowing into a girl’s ear for way too long. Or a snake suffering diarrhea on a frizzy mulleted creep’s shoulder. Or the hero’s mother – a ridiculous caricature of a Mormon woman – getting hit by blowgun fire. Or a vomit-caked kiss. Or the plagiarized story in question, a sci-fi gem named Yeast Lords in which, depending on each author’s fantasies, Sam Rockwell prances around as either an unkempt carnie or a gay Edgar Winter, riding flying deer and romancing a bald woman. Napoleon Dynamite – ligers, bad hairstyles, and all – comes off as positively Hollywood in comparison.

Edgar Winter - Intergalactic Hero

Hess has always played fast and loose with unnerving characters and situations, something which, combined with his films’ generally optimistic tones, lent his first film the goofball accessibility which made it such a cultural phenomenon. Gentlemen Broncos has no such designs at widespread acclaim, and whether one enjoys this film or not depends entirely upon what connotations one puts upon the word freakshow. Unsurprisingly, it works for me.


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