Review: ‘Easy Does It,’ starring Ben Matheny, Matthew Martinez, Cory Dumesnil, Susan Gordon, Bryan Batt, Dwight Henry and Linda Hamilton

July 18, 2020

by Carla Hay

Matthew Martinez, Cory Dumesnil and Ben Matheny in “Easy Does It” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“Easy Does It”

Directed by Will Addison

Culture Representation: Taking place in the United States in July 1977, the comedy “Easy Does It” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Latinos and African Americans) representing the middle-class, working-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: Two dimwitted con artists go on a road trip, kidnap a man, and go on an armed robbery spree while trying to outrun two female gangsters who are after them for unpaid debts.

Culture Audience: “Easy Does It” will appeal mostly to people who like high-octane but incoherent action comedies.

Linda Hamilton in “Easy Does It” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

The action-comedy film “Easy Does It” is as scatter-brained and messy as the two simple-minded con artists who are the story’s protagonists. Directed by Will Addison, who co-wrote the screenplay with “Easy Does It” co-star Ben Matheny, “Easy Does It” is the type of movie that could have been improved with more imaginative writing. But the movie ends up dragging because the silly action scenes become too repetitive and lead to a very predictable ending.

The first scene of “Easy Does It” is an indication of how bad this movie is when it shows a small group of homeless-looking people under a bridge watching a fist fight between two other dirty and disheveled men. It’s July 1977, in a run-down part of Aberdeen, Mississippi, and there’s a pile of betting money for this fight. The observers soon find out that this brawl has been rigged by the two “fighters,” who run off before the angry mob can get to them. The two con artists are so dumb that they forget to grab any of the cash that was in the betting pile.

Who are these losers? They are best friends  and trailer mates Jack Buckner (played by Matheny) and Scottie Aldo (played by Matthew Martinez), who work together as dishwashers at a grungy diner. But what Jack and Scottie really want is to get rich without having to work hard. Jack is the alpha male of the duo, since he’s the one who comes up with often-outlandish money-making schemes. Scottie is a slack-jawed follower who goes along with Jack’s ridiculous ideas.

One day, while they’re at work washing dishes in the back of the diner, Jack and Scottie pretty much get chased out of their job, when their boss Mack (played by Charlie Talbert) finds out that a business in which he invested on Jack’s recommendation turned out to be a money-losing dud. Mack storms into the back room where Jack and Scottie are working and unleashes his rage on them, by calling them “white trash” and throwing dishes at them.

Jack and Scottie’s boss isn’t the only person who’s furious with them. A local crime lord named “King George” Montgomery (played by Linda Hamilton, in cornrows and looking very butch in a men’s suit) is after them because of unpaid debts. King George has an equally ruthless daughter nicknamed “Blue Eyes” (played by Susan Gordon), who is sent to do a lot of King George’s dirty work.

While holed up in their trailer, Jack is looking through his mail when he sees a postcard which reads, “Dear Jack, if you’re reading this, I’m dead. Kiss, kiss. Mom. P.S.: Left you something under that pier.” Jack explains to Scottie that when Jack was a child, he and his mother visited San Clemente, California, where they went to a beach with a pier.

Jack is convinced that his mother buried something valuable underneath the pier and that whatever the treasure is, it can solve their money problems. Jack decides that they’re going to take a road trip to San Clemente to find that hoped-for treasure. Scottie willingly agrees, because they also want to get away from King George.

But not so fast. Before they can leave, Jack and Scottie are ambushed in the back of their car by King George and Blue Eyes, who threaten them with violence over their unpaid debts. A scuffle ensues, and Scottie and Jack manage to get King George and Blue Eyes out of the car before racing off. But do you think King George and Blue Eyes will let Jack and Scottie get away so easily? Of course not.

Jack and Scottie’s road trip begins during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, so there’s an abundance of patriotism while they drive through the Southwest. (And you can bet that fireworks will be part of the cartoonish violence in this movie.) The problem with the road trip is that Jack and Scottie have no money. The only way they want to get gas is by stealing it or by stealing money to pay for the gas. They decide to steal the gas.

At a gas station, Jack and Scottie show that their stupidity knows no bounds. They are shocked to find out that the gas pump doesn’t work unless the gas is paid for in advance. A nerdy customer points out to this fact to them, so this bumbling duo decides to force the clerk who controls the gas pumps inside the gas station’s convenience store to let them have the gas for free.

What starts out as a simple robbery turns into a kidnapping when Jack and Scottie end up taking the nerdy customer as a hostage. The hostage’s name is Collin Hornsby (played by Cory Dumesnil), and he begs to be let go because he says he has a fiancée waiting for him at home. Jack and Scottie end up dumping Collin in a deserted area. But when Jack figures out that Collin’s harmless and geeky appearance can help them with more armed robberies, they go back and retrieve him as a reluctant accomplice to a crime spree.

The rest of “Easy Does It” basically consists of a series of armed robberies that Jack and Scottie commit, with Collin as their decoy/shield, at places like diners and convenience stores. Hot on their trail is Blue Eyes, as well as an arrogant Texas cop named Officer Owens (played by Bryan Batt) and a jaded sheriff named Chief Parker (played by Dwight Henry), who grow increasingly frustrated—just as viewers of this movie will be increasingly annoyed at how repetitive and unimaginative the chase scenes are.

Along the way, Jack and Scottie smoke a lot of marijuana and hide out in deserted areas. To disguise themselves during the robbery, they use a “patriotic” face bandana (for Jack) and face paint (for Scottie). When their robberies make the news, they get nicknamed by the media: Jack is called the Star-Spangled Bandit, while Scottie is called the Apache Warrior. Collin, who says he works in telephone customer service for a catalogue company, is in way over his head with this criminal activity, but somehow he starts to get the hang of it, and he develops a friendship of sorts with these two moronic outlaws.

The madcap tone of “Easy Does It” can best be described as influenced by the drug-induced incoherence of the 1998 Hunter S. Thompson road-trip movie “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (starring Johnny Depp as Thompson) and the redneck culture of the TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard,” but without an interesting story to tie it all together. The dialogue in “Easy Does It” is absolutely terrible, and the acting from most of the cast isn’t much better. And there’s almost nothing to like about any of the characters in this movie.

As the chief gangster King George, Hamilton seems to be having the most fun in her campy role. Hamilton is an alum of several “The Terminator” action flicks (which aren’t known for being Oscar-worthy intellectual projects), but she still must have been cringing a little inside when she had to utter lines in “Easy Does It,” such as, “Promises don’t butter any bread, fellas” or “I want you, Jack … on a platter.”

“Easy Does It” doesn’t take itself too seriously. But between the sloppy editing, the mindless dialogue and the missed opportunities to create genuinely funny and memorable characters, “Easy Does It” is actually not that easy to watch because it’s like watching a headless chicken running around in circles until everything mercifully comes to an end.

Gravitas Ventures released “Easy Does It” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and on VOD on July 17, 2020.