The Tail Job (Slamdance Review)
Inspired by true events (or so the opening title card claims), The Tail Job is a comedy that’s high on energy but low on laughs, getting by on its committed cast and a Hollywood-friendly narrative. After a violent and pointless opening, the film cuts to Nicholas (Blair Dwyer) taking a cab driven by Trevor (Craig Anderson) to spy on a woman with his camera. When Trevor asks Nicholas what he’s doing, he says the woman is his fiancée Mona, and he’s trying to find evidence that she’s having an affair. Several days earlier, Nicholas looked at Mona’s phone and saw her exchanging flirty messages with a man named Sio Bohan, and Nicholas wants to catch them together. Trevor takes sympathy on Nicholas, deciding to help him tail Mona for the night in order to find out who the mysterious Sio Bohan really is.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Nicholas misread the name of Mona’s girlfriend Siobhan as Sio Bohan; in fact, it only takes someone smarter than Nicholas or Trevor to make that discovery. It’s a cute misunderstanding that makes for a funny anecdote, but as the foundation for a feature-length film it runs out of steam almost immediately. Either way, the mistake causes Trevor and Nicholas to follow a bunch of false leads and red herrings until they get the attention of a dangerous gangster who actually happens to be named Sio Bohan, who sends out his goons to take care of them for some reason or another.
The Tail Job’s plot is deliberately silly, with co-directors/co-writers Bryan Moses and Daniel Millar using the standard formula for a Hollywood mystery/thriller and throwing in whatever absurdity they can. That approach can work, except the Siobhan/Sio Bohan mix-up is pretty much the height of what kind of comedy the film offers. Jokes constantly fall flat or go for the lowest common denominator, whether it’s a hacker insisting that only “full penetration” counts as cheating or a prostitute whose only purpose is to point out that she has a lot of sex. None of it works, and the poor treatment of the (very few) female characters only makes the comedy look worse.
But as problematic as The Tail Job’s script might be, it does inspire a few laughs when it skewers the kinds of familiar story beats and lines of dialogue we’re used to. Moses and Millar have a good understanding of how the genre they’re operating within works, along with a lot of ingenuity and technical skills that make good use of their small budget. That, combined with Dwyer and Anderson’s strong performances, gives The Tail Job a momentum that helps move things along, a quality that goes a long way when dealing with a comedy that just isn’t funny.