MOONWALKERS, conspiracy farce, rated R, The Screen,
One of the hard-dying articles of faith among conspiracy believers is that the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing was faked. As the theory goes, Stanley Kubrick, whose 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey had just set a new benchmark for sci-fi movies, was hired by the U.S. government to stage the event at a remote, top-secret studio somewhere in the hills of Hollywood or maybe in Nevada’s remote Area 51.
Well, why not London? England at the end of the ’60s was swinging like a pendulum, drenched in acid and psychedelia, awash in sex and rock ’n’ roll. It was also home to Kubrick.
So when members of the CIA decide it would be prudent to shoot backup footage of the moon landing to save face in the event the real one comes a cropper, which seems more likely than not, London is where they send their man to recruit the great director.
The CIA operative is Kidman (Ron Perlman), a brutal block of muscle who is suffering from PTSD flashbacks after his service in Vietnam. He arrives in the office of Kubrick’s agent (Stephen Campbell Moore), but the gods of mistaken identity intervene, and Kidman ends up giving his suitcase full of cash to Jonny (Rupert Grint), the hapless manager of a terrible rock band, who assures him he will produce Kubrick.
Jonny needs the money to repay a murderous loanshark (Andrew Blumenthal). So he recruits his bearded stoner friend Leon (Robert Sheehan) to impersonate Kubrick, with no intention of actually shooting the footage. But then he discovers that Kidman is not some bozo Hollywood producer, but CIA.
Moon landing conspiracy? Kubrick? Psychedelic London? CIA? It seems like an idea pregnant with potential. But in the hands of screenwriter Dean Craig
(Death at a Funeral) and director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet (making his feature debut), it quickly dissolves into a welter of silliness and violence through which only the occasional beam of wit manages to penetrate.
Perlman is solid, in every sense of the word, but there’s little for him to do but try to punch and shoot his way through this mess. Grint, familiar as Ron from the Harry Potter movies, struggles to find the humor in his sad-sack role. Sheehan survives better as the Kubrick impersonator, but Tom Audenaert, as an avant-garde filmmaker drafted to shoot the footage, splatters the screen with a painful explosion of camp. Erika Sainte is intriguing as an enigmatic groupie.
There are numerous homages to Kubrick, including nods to 2001, plenty of the old ultra-violence from A Clockwork Orange, sexual flights of fancy à la Eyes Wide Shut, and an American general not unlike Dr. Strangelove’s Buck Turgidson. But the gap between the talents of Kubrick and Bardou-Jacquet dwarfs the distance from Earth to the moon. — Jonathan Richards
Ron Perlman and Rupert Grint