Not very much to shout about

Not very much to shout about

The Angriest Man In Brooklyn (M18)

93 minutes/Opens tomorrow

The story: Lawyer Henry Altmann (Robin Williams) is cranky and self-righteous. Dr Sharon Gill (Mila Kunis) tells him that he has a brain aneurysm, with not long to live. Altmann's angry questioning leads her to blurt out that he has 90 minutes of life left. He has just over an hour to heal the rift with wife Bette (Melissa Leo), son Tommy (Hamish Linklater) and brother Aaron (Peter Dinklage). However, nothing goes as planned.

John Lui Acast of award winners cannot save this confused work from being unable to decide if it wants to be dry and funny or sentimental and serious. In other words, whether it wants to be a study of Jewish angst (think Larry David's HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm or the Coen brothers' A Serious Man, 2009) or an episode of a Lifetime family show about a man learning life lessons in his final moments.

Based on a 1997 Israeli film, there are signs that the frustration-filled journey of Altmann (Williams) across New York City and Brooklyn as he races to complete his mission takes its inspiration from Old Testament stories of men put through ordeals for no fathomable reason.

But there must be a reason for suffering, say the film-makers, so at regular intervals, the audience is spoon-fed the reasons for Altmann's predicament. They include his anger (the clue is indeed in the title), his sense of entitlement and his ambition.

This neatness in moral reasoning, when placed against the distinctly bleak and New York nature of his obstacles - his thoughts of reuniting with estranged friends and relations always backfire and they end up yelling at him - creates a tonally muddled work.

Award winners Williams (one Oscar, four Golden Globes), Dinklage (one Golden Globe), Leo (one Oscar) and Kunis (one Golden Globe nomination) make the best of a weak script, but there is too much mush here for a boatload of acclaimed actors to wade through.

johnlui@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 18, 2014.
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