Way back in 2009, I was lucky enough to have been forwarded a copy of Ryan Noel's The Notorious Newman Brothers. A mockumentary, of sorts, that looked to lampoon the crime "genre," it was a title that truly stood out at the end of the year. Easily one of the best of that year, and if I am going to be honest, it is probably one of the funniest comedies that I have ever been sent via Rogue Cinema. Although it hasn't received a great deal of mainstream notoriety, it has developed a decent little life for itself through the internet. It has developed a sustaining fan base that has made it possible for the title to be released through a new, and totally quality, DVD. I will get to the special features on that disc shortly, but for now I would like to focus on the feature itself. As has already been mentioned, The Notorious Newman Brothers is a mockumentary in the same vein as This is Spinal Tap or Best in Show. However, director Ryan Noel, along with his stars Brett and Jason Butler, attempted to take this genre and subvert it just a little bit further. Standing out as a piece of meta-crime-fiction, The Notorious Newman Brothers is a ridiculously silly and raucously funny faux-documentary.
The Newman Brothers, Thunderclap and Paulie, are a pair of mafiosos fresh out of jail. These two hardened criminals did a little time after they were hit with murder charges in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and even the seldom-seen 4th degree. Well, it was either all the murder that got them locked up, or it might have been the pirated DVDs. Regardless, once the duo are back on the streets they hook up with documentary filmmaker Max Chaplin. Max turns out to be an inexperienced, soft spoken, and slightly feminine young gentleman who is bullied by the brothers from the very start of their collaboration. The two brothers try to play up their connections and importance within the criminal underworld, but in reality that are simply small-time hoods looking to make their name. With a huge drug deal ahead of them, and with Max documenting the entire thing, this could be the opportunity that these two buffoons have been looking for. That or it could just be another impressive failure, which is very much a possibility.
"Did she cast a spell on you?" is just one of the many great quotes to be found in The Notorious Newman Brothers. The film takes an idea that, by all of my previous experiences with cinema, should have turned out as a 'done-to-death' genre spoof, but the filmmakers somehow took this simple idea and crafted something that is both genuine, unique and always funny. The entire 'mockumentary' sub-genre can very easily be hit or miss, depending on the ideas and the crew behind the film. It is particularly difficult to create something that remains interesting in feature-length form, which is why the majority of mockumentaries that I am usually sent are in the short-film variety. Ryan Noel and the Butler's took their concept and simply ran with it. Staying away from genre-spoof simplifications, the funniest bits within the film usually come from the delirious improvisational dialogue that the actors revel in. Numerous lines of ridiculous dialogue are born within these sequences that tend to focus on elaborate yarns that are spun out of control, usually coming forth from Brett and Jason Butler. Some of the most memorable moments come from this form of absurdist comedy, like the aforementioned line about spell-casting. The line comes after the duo convince their director to steal a porcelain wizard statue from a house that they burglarize. After the trio are caught red-handed by the woman who owns the house, the two brothers then grill their director before letting him into their own home, because the woman who busted them may have cast a spell on him. Why this woman, who walked in on the three of them looting her home, was thought to be a witch, or might have even had time to cast a spell, is kind of beside the point. As the scene continues, the brothers just seem to bounce off one another making the whole concept more and more ridiculous. Another favorite bit of mine involves Thunderclap describing his designer suit, which was apparently made out of Wooly Mammoth hair. His suit color? Intergalactic black. That's right, he reached up into the sky and pulled down the dark in order to form his suit. Without a doubt, this flick goes into some strange territory, but that's what makes it great.
The performances from the small cast are all top quality. The Newman Brothers themselves (Brett Butler and Jason Butler) steal the show at every opportunity. The over-the-top tough guy accents could be seen as being too stereotypical, but the devotion that the actors have ends up making it all come together. It's easy to fake an accent, but to actually create unique characters who contribute in varying ways, and who actually deliver "the funny," while throwing on a silly accent, that is something entirely different. Ryan Noel, as Max, also does well filling in as both an actor and director, generally making his role much more than just the straight man to the Newman Brother's over-the-top shenanigans. His constant questioning of the situations surrounding him can be a bit nerving at times, but his character becomes endearing as the film progresses. Noel does a great job on both fronts, as a performer and filmmaker. With a tight plot and quick pace, the film moves along at a steady rhythm and it looks great while doing it. With some great post-production editing techniques, such as the title-cards for the main characters, the movie has some polish to it.
With a flashy website and several new viable options for checking out the movie, The Notorious Newman Brothers now has a chance at reaching out and finding a potentially larger market. Through their website, you can now rent and stream the movie or purchase it and download it for later. Even better, you can also purchase the DVD which features an assortment of special features that actually adds a lot to the experience. Featuring numerous deleted scenes, as well as some funny video clips that show the boys trying to break into the Toronto International Film Fest, the DVD is probably the best Newman Brothers experience currently available... aside from having them "whack" your spouse, of course.
Overall, this is a hilarious and bizarre look at the gangster-film pastiche. Piecing scenes together with famous mob-film quotes, that ensure the audience that this was a film made by actual fans of the genre themselves, The Notorious Newman Brothers is more than just an outsiders view of a genre-film. I absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for a fun piece of true independent cinema. You can read more about the film at the official website
. Check it out, it might be one of the funniest independent features I've come across.