I’m sure that somewhere inside of Jared Hess’s mind all of this makes perfect sense. I get the feeling that after he completed Gentlemen Broncos the writer/director/producer sat down to a screening with a group of his friends and the congregation rolled in the aisles with laughter. I’m equally sure that when his friends went home they were left scratching their heads. Somewhere in Hollywood a corner drugstore made a killing in aspirin or something stronger. In his own private world, where they all get the joke, Gentlemen Broncos might not be so bad. As for this reviewer, it was perhaps one of the worst films I’ve ever had the displeasure of watching. I’m putting in for hazard pay on this one, guys. This film will subject you to images that you’ll pay good money not to have in your heads. Once again, a payday for the drugstores who likely made about as much off this movie as the film produced at its limited box office run. For anyone out there ready to accuse me of “not getting it” or some such defense of “your” movie. Look at the film’s gross take of $113,000 against a $10 million budget and talk to me then.
Benjamin (Angarano) is a young awkward boy who likes to write fantasy stories. He’s socially inept, helped in no small part in his problems by a neurotic mother who babies him and designs incredibly bad nightgowns. She ends up sending him to a writers’ camp where he gets to meet his idol, writer and illustrator Chevalier (Clement) who is really quite too full of himself to be believed. Chevalier is out of ideas, and he’s about to get dropped by his agent if he doesn’t come up with something good, and soon. When Benjamin submits his story Yeast Wars: The Bronco Years to a writing contest at the camp, Chevalier decides this is just the story he’s looking for. He changes a few names and submits the story as his own. Meanwhile Benjamin has sold the film rights to his story to amateur filmmaking couple Tabitha (Feiffer) and Lonnie (Jimenez) who turn it into a gay space opera with incredibly poor filmmaking. The stuff is about to hit the fan as the two versions of the story are about to collide with Benjamin in the middle of it all.
It almost appears as if Hess went out of his way to make this film as inaccessible as he possibly can. There’s little doubt that he’s thumbing his nose at Hollywood and some aspect of “the establishment”. That’s all well and good, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean anyone would be willing to pay good money to watch his private joke. The characters are completely set apart from reality. I couldn’t understand, let alone relate, to any of them. It should have been easy. I’m a writer, and like most writers out there I’ve felt the frustration of getting anyone to notice my material. Benjamin should have been easy for me to relate to. Unfortunately, he’s the most passive lead character you’ll ever find. He seems remarkably uninterested in the things going on about him. Of course, the film has that “final straw” moment, but by then it’s too late. Who cares? If the character or the actor doesn’t care what’s going on, why should we? The supporting characters are so bizarre and over the top that we never get to find any reference points that ground us, even a little, in reality. The film is interrupted throughout with the various cheesy versions of the story being played out often with Sam Rockwell in the role of Bronco. These shots at independent, and might I say, poor filmmaking would be a nice contrast except there is nothing to contrast it with. Hess’s reality is just as bad as the one he’s making fun of. There really isn’t a departure at all. The result is a mess that only someone willing to dedicate far more thought than I am, could ever appreciate.
Gentlemen Broncos is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average 35 mbps. I’m not sure what to say here. The film is intentionally made to look cheap, so the high definition doesn’t really accomplish anything here. Colors are warped somewhat so that nothing really looks quite “right”. It’s all part of the artistic element of the film, but it takes away from what might well be a good image presentation. Black levels are only average, and the picture is often soft with washed color. Detail is about the only element that remains to let you know that you are indeed watching a high definition presentation. I’m sure that the transfer accurately depicts Hess’s intentions here. I’m just not sure that it’s a good thing.
The DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio sort of sits there. Even the fantastic elements lack anything dynamic. Of course, it’s supposed to look and sound cheap. Mission accomplished. There are some nice laser shots to give you some surround use, but it’s mostly just dialog and it all happens front and center.
Deleted Scenes: (5:53) SD There are 5 with a play all option.
Outtakes Reel: (8:48) SD It’s pretty bad when you can’t tell the difference between outtakes and final film.
One Nutty Movie: (15:29) HD Not even the behind the scenes feature is typical or very helpful. There’s a lot of raw shooting footage. At one point we’re told Hess cancelled rehearsals, believing the movie would be better without them. It’s the Iverson approach to performance. “Practice! We’re talking about practice?”
Mini-Docs: There are 18 very short minute-long pieces that cover various odds and ends.
The film actually begins with a very cool intro. You are treated to the film’s opening credits through reproductions of classic sci-fi pulp covers. Some of these are iconic today. It’s all presented to the sounds of the Zachery & Evans song In the Year 2525. This was a promising beginning. Trust me, it’s all downhill from there. If you happened to get to this film before I had the chance to warn you off, all I can say is that I’m “very, very sorry”.