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Inside Out (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

Inside Out


Starring Paul “Triple H” Levesque, Michael Rapaport, Parker Posey, Bruce Dern, Michael Cudlitz, Julie White, Jency Griffin, Juliette Goglia, J.D. Evermore, James DuMont, Danny Epper, Emily D. Haley and Andy Sims.

Screenplay by Dylan Schaffer.

Directed by Artie Mandelberg.

Distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films and WWE Studios.  93 minutes. Rated PG-13.

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the largest wrestling league in the world, wants to get into the pictures.  Therefore, they have created WWE Studios, a film studio which appears to exist entirely to create vehicles for their wrestling stars to try their hands at acting.

It sort of makes sense; there is a long history of wrestlers doing acting, such as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Captain Lou Albano and Randy “Macho” Man Savage – though none of those could really be said to have carved out a huge career.

The idea of a wrestler not being able to make it as a leading man has taken a beating by the biggest name in the WWE stable (though, I don’t believe he’s actively part of the league anymore).  Duane “The Rock” Johnson has had a surprisingly fertile career as an actor (though most of his films were not WWE productions).

Still, the league took notice and realized that they could make a real payday by putting together low-budget star vehicles for their biggest names.  The movies would have a built-in audience, since the fighters already had a fan base.

The first experiments were with John Cena, a likable if slightly wooden actor who starred in WWE showcases The Marine, 12 Rounds and the upcoming The Reunion.  None of those were particularly good films (though obviously I have to withhold judgment on The Reunion until its release), but Cena actually had a bit of a light comic touch, leading to a pretty decent guest spot on the TV series Psych.

Other vehicles followed for wrestlers like Edge (Adam Copeland), The Big Show (Paul Wight), Ted DiBiase and more.   Honestly, most of them went straight to video, I never saw any of them and can’t even comment on their quality.

The latest attempt comes on the buff, masculine frame of Paul “Triple H” Levesque.  Inside Out is his second film to come out in 2011 (it was preceded by the family comedy The Chaperone.)  Inside Out is getting an exceedingly short limited theatrical release before reaching video in a few months.

The nice surprise is that Levesque (I know nothing about wrestling, so I’m gonna hold off on calling him Triple H since I have no clue what the hell that is supposed to mean) is actually a pretty decent actor.  Not a lot of range, perhaps, but he is much less wooden than Cena.  He is able to convey feelings with a bit of subtlety, and he does not look overmatched when dealing with professional actors.

The WWE is actually trying its best to make this a quality production.  They hired three respected (formerly) big name co-stars for the film, 90s indie darlings Michael Rapaport and Parker Posey and 70s superstar Bruce Dern.  Honestly, Rapaport is way over the top (but then again, that has always been his MO) and Posey and Dern sort of feel like they are phoning in their roles, but each of them does have some fine moments here.  In fact, the acting in general is not bad, with the exception of Jency Griffin as a heartless hit-woman – and even that may have just been the impossibly awful role.

The problem is, they probably should have spent some of that money in hiring a screenwriter.  Inside Out is pretty much a long line of potboiler clichés strung together to feature length, which undoes all of the smarter and more eccentric touches that they try to tack on… and there definitely are some.  An interesting setting in post-Katrina New Orleans is also somewhat squandered – for the most part, this could be in any city, any time.

Levesque plays AJ, a former mob-enforcer who is returning home from jail after doing 13 years because he covered up for his best friend Jack (Rapaport).  When he gets home, he wants to go straight (making pickles???!!!), but Jack is determined to get him back into the life.  In the meantime, AJ finds out that Jack has married his girlfriend (Posey) and raised his daughter (Juliette Goglia).  Then when AJ goes with Jack to make a pick up as a favor for the local mob boss (Dern), things suddenly go violently wrong and AJ is suddenly forced back into the deadly world of cigarette smuggling (???!!!).

However, the audience knows what will happen pretty much from start to finish and that lack of surprise pretty much skewers much chance that Inside Out will get much of an audience outside of wrestling circles, despite some decent moments.

Wrestling fans aren’t necessarily big fans of surprise, though, so this should at the very least work well for its targeted audience.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 5, 2011.

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