Small Engine Repair

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An adaptation of writer/director/star John Pollono’s 2013 play about friends enabling friends that spans 30 years. A trio of highly engaging reprobates — Frank (Pollono), Packie (Shea Whigham), and Swaino (Jon Bernthal) — spend the first half of the picture showing the world what a fine breeding ground Manchester, New Hampshire is for sexist and homophobic posturing. Each of these boys can tell what’s on the minds of the other two even before a thought has formed. When Frank gets sent to “school” for a few years, it’s Packie and Swaino who keep an eye on his daughter Crystal (Ciara Bravo). The trio of male leads are nothing short of perfect: their wild, free-form exchanges are a cringeworthy delight for the ears, if not the eyes. And bravo to Bravo for the authentic flavor and ear for dialogue she brings to her college-bound teen. When dad cries poor, she lobs a sarcastic salvo, reminding Frank that rather than being poor, they’re clinging to “the last branch of the lower-middle class.” Alas, I wasn’t kidding when I said it was based on a play. Pollono talks a good game, but once we’re inside Frank’s titular chop shop, it becomes canned theatre. Why can’t Pollono be more like Scorsese, particularly when it comes to reigning in the moralizing? Goodfella Henry Hill’s “punishment” is a house in the suburbs with a two-car garage, aka the American Dream. A person’s actions should speak for them, without the film having to resort to a sensational subplot to spur content. Sticking a character in a coma after a nude selfie goes viral, and the revenge theme it fosters, leads to a ping in the transmission from script to screen. (2021) — Scott Marks

Rated R | 1 hour, 42 minutes
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