Posted by Joel Copling on January 20, 2016

"Moonwalkers" is an explosion of contradictory tones that converge into something so bizarre it is, at least, impossible to deny. "Based on a Real Conspiracy Theory," states the tag line on the poster, and it's no joke. This really is an urban legend, and it really is completely fictional. The tale it weaves is so oddball it's hard to believe anyone migth have ever bought it, but then, looking at the list of popular urban legends, perhaps, in retrospect it's not all that shocking. The U.S. government conspiring to hire Stanley Kubrick to film a fake moon landing in case the real attempt to do so, via the Apollo 11 spacecraft, doesn't work is probably not all that outlandish, right?

Screenwriter Dean Craig definitely doesn't take that approach. This is a rude, lewd, and, on occasion, crude comedy of errors that includes everything from espionage to acid trips to turf wars between moneymen and their clients to some honest-to-goodness, heads-exploding violence. It's an odd creation, that's for sure. Jonny (Rupert Grint) is a down-on-his-luck manager to a band whose lead singer Glen (Eric Lampaert) is tired of the same, old same-old; he wants more gigs, he wants to get laid, and, above all, he wants his rock opera to be made in this lifetime. The problem is that Jonny is in deep debt with some people to whom he owes money, which takes precedence over the album he has promised Glen and his bandmates.

After they threaten to fire him if he doesn't have a solution in two days, an opportunity falls into Jonny's lap: A Hollywood agent named Kidman (Ron Perlman) approaches Jonny under the impression that Jonny is his cousin (and hopeful financial saving grace), who represents Stanley Kubrick. There is an offer on the table for Kubrick, and it is, according to Kidman, "incredibly time-sensitive." The truth comes out: Kidman is an agent, not with Hollywood, but with the C.I.A., and the government wants to have a moon landing filmed just in case the men going into space are unable to pull off the real thing. The problem is that Kidman suffers from severe PTSD as a result of his recent mission in Vietnam, and he's been given orders to kill everyone involved.

The film plays out as something completely schizophrenic, switching from a delirious acid trip, on which Kidman is visited both by the usual visions of kaleidoscopic unreality and by the scorched victims of what seems to have been the bombing of a Vietnamese village in which Kidman undoubtedly took part, to a showdown between Kidman and the moneymen to whom Jonny owes debt, which includes the film's first (and definitely not last) instance of extreme, bodily violence. The warring tones work, though, because of Perlman, whose performance as Kidman never plays to the room or panders to a caricature, and Grint, whose Jonny is sad and maybe a little pathetic in his desperation.

The third act works wonders once Jonny and his friend Leon (a very funny Robert Sheehan), whom he has "cast" in the role of Kubrick, set to work on the film (with a foolish, drugged-out director whose last "masterpiece," an experimental film that features, well, you'll have to see, took him three years to make). It goes about as wrong as you'd expect, and it is in this segment that Craig and director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet go all-out with their appealing tonal imbalance, intercutting the hilariously disastrous filming with a shootout of near-silly solemness. "Moonwalkers" doesn't always work through the issue of imbalance, but while it's attempting to do so, it is, at least, a lot of wacky fun.

Film Information

Rupert Grint (Jonny), Ron Perlman (Kidman), Robert Sheehan (Leon), John Flanders (Murphy), Eric Lampaert (Glen).

Directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet and written by Dean Craig.

Rated R (bloody violence, graphic nudity, plentiful drug use, language).

107 minutes.

Released in select cities on January 15, 2016.