‘Small Engine Repair’ Review: Of Mechanics and Men

What occurs in Manch-Vegas stays in Manch-Vegas. Just ask the lads from “Small Engine Repair,” an adaptation of the play of the identical title by the actor and playwright John Pollono. The movie, which Pollono additionally directs, gives extra depth than the unique however nonetheless flounders within the translation from stage to display screen.

Frank (Pollono) calls collectively his longtime buds Swaino (Jon Bernthal) and Packie (Shea Whigham), middle-aged natives of Manchester, New Hampshire, who’ve fallen out due to a brawl. When a frat boy named Chad (Spencer House) joins what looks like a traditional evening of bro-ing, the darker intentions behind the gathering are revealed.

Pollono’s movie has the identical grit because the play, which premiered Off Broadway in 2013. Pollono, Bernthal and Whigham ship ace performances that humanize these puerile man-children with out pardoning them. The dialogue is brutal: crass, racist, homophobic, misogynist. It’s The Testosterone Show. Though the play examined the lads’s relationship to ladies, it lacked ladies characters; the movie fortunately corrects that, introducing Frank’s ex Karen (Jordana Spiro) and daughter Crystal (Ciara Bravo).

The movie self-consciously cushions the trim content material of the play, changing anecdotal moments within the dialogue into flashbacks. These additions extra explicitly critique the characters for a 2021 viewers with higher sensitivity to depictions of poisonous males, however they’re largely distracting, highlighting how the movie sits uneasily between the contained world of the play and the bigger world the difference makes an attempt to construct. Ultimately, the story nonetheless feels unfinished, and Pollono’s course falters within the movie’s massive twist, when it tries to stability horror and humor earlier than its tidy decision.

Small Engine Repair
Rated R for gutter-mouth trash-talking. Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes. In theaters.