Review: ‘Jackass Forever,’ starring Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, ‘Danger’ Ehren McGhehey, Chris Pontius, Jason ‘Wee Man’ Acuña, Sean ‘Poopies’ McInerney and Zach Holmes

February 4, 2022

by Carla Hay

Danger Ehren and Johnny Knoxville in “Jackass Forever” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and MTV Entertainment Studios)

“Jackass Forever”

Directed by Jeff Tremaine

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Los Angeles area, the comedy film “Jackass Forever” features a cast of predominantly white people (with some African Americans) performing physically painful stunts, as well as playing pranks on each other and some unsuspecting people.

Culture Clash: This group of comedic pranksters push themselves to the limit in how far they will go to get laughs, even if some members of the group object to how dangerous these stunts can be.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of fans of MTV’s “Jackass” TV series, “Jackass Forever” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in movies where adults engage in a lot of cringe-inducing antics.

Chris Pontius, Preston Lacy, Steve-O, Dark Shark, Dave England, Zach Holmes, Eric Manaka, Jasper, Sean “Poopies” McInerney, and Danger Ehren in “Jackass Forever” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and MTV Entertainment Studios)

“Jackass Forever” delivers everything you’d expect it to deliver to “Jackass” fans: a compilation of gross-out comedy stunts and silly pranks. The movie doesn’t try to pretend to be anything else, although some parts of the movie are unnecessary filler. “Jackass Forever” reunites many of the original cast members of MTV’s “Jackass” reality TV series, which was on the air from 2000 to 2002, and spawned many spinoff series and movies.

“Jackass” was created by Johnny Knoxville (the franchise’s biggest star and on-screen ringleader), Jeff Tremaine and Spike Jonze. Knoxville, Tremaine and Jonze are producers of “Jackass Forever,” while Tremaine is the movie’s director. Jonze and Tremaine make brief on-camera appearances in “Jackass Forever.”

If you’re easily offended by movies that have numerous scenes talking about and showing naked male genitalia and bodily functions, then “Jackass Forever” should be avoided. However, people who can tolerate this type of comedy will find something to laugh at in “Jackass Forever.” Almost everyone seeing this movie will have some kind of awareness that anything with the “Jackass” franchise name on it will have crude and sometimes nauseating comedy. Pity any uptight person who sees this movie and is completely clueless beforehand on what to expect.

In “Jackass Forever,” Knoxville is joined by other members of the original “Jackass” cast: Steve-O (whose real name is Stephen Glover), Chris Pontius, Dave England, “Danger” Ehren McGhehey, Preston Lacy and Jason “Wee Man” Acuña. Original “Jackass” cast member Ryan Dunn died in a car accident in 2011, at the age of 34. (“Jackass Forever” flashes a brief tribute to him during the end credits.)

Bam Margera, another original “Jackass” cast member, was set to be in “Jackass Forever,” but he was reportedly fired after failing a drug test. (He tested positive for Adderall.) Margera has since had disputes with the “Jackass” team, and Tremaine filed a restraining order against Margera. “Jackass Forever” has some archival footage of “Jackass” where Margera can briefly be seen. Margera is not in any of the new footage that’s in “Jackass Forever.”

Also part of the “Jackass Forever” on-screen team are Sean “Poopies” McInerney (a self-described “Jackass” superfan) and Zach Holmes. The large sizes of Holmes and Lacy are used in a “Triple Wedgie” challenge with Wee Man, who happens to be a little person. Holmes, Lacy and Wee Man are wearing white mawashi-styled (sumo wrestler) loincloth in this wedgie challenge. It’s a scene in “Jackass Forever” that might offend some people who think body sizes are being exploited and ridiculed in this scene.

“Jackass Forever” has made some attempt to bring more diversity to the “Jackass” on-screen team. There’s a token female: Rachel Wolfson, the only woman who’s part of this prankster group. She actually has more stamina than many of the men in the group, who scream in terror at things that Wolfson can endure with silent aplomb. And there are some African Americans who are new to the “Jackass” franchise: Eric Manaka and Jasper (no last name) are both presented as part of the main group too. Jasper gets the most screen time out of all three of them.

“Jackass Forever” also has some celebrity cameos, with the unsuspecting celebs getting pranked. Musician/actor Machine Gun Kelly (also known as Colson Baker) gets sucker punched into a swimming pool in a stunt with Steve-O involving a stationary bicycle challenge and giant toy hands. Comedian/actor Eric André also gets blindsided: He’s hit with a giant tube-shaped balloon that bursts out of a beverage truck where André thinks he’s getting a free cup of coffee. Hip-hop music artist Tyler, the Creator is a pianist in a skit where he plays music while members of the “Jackass” team wear tuxedos and dance on a floor that gives electroshocks through the floor. Tyler, the Creator doesn’t escape these electroshocks either.

“Jackass Forever” has some stunts that are somewhat boring and over-used, compared to others. There’s a high-flying stunt with members of the group doing BMX riding on a “human ramp,” with the expected bike crashes and falls that ensue. Another stunt shows some members of the “Jackass” group dressed up as a marching band, and they walk on a treadmill, which predictably results in more tumbles and bruises. Knoxville catapults a soccer ball at Steve-O when he comes out of a production trailer on the movie set.

And there are explosions galore. Steve-O is using a porta potty when it explodes on him. In the movie’s opening sequence, another porta potty explodes on him, with feces (or something that looks like feces) flying everywhere and splattered all over Steve-O. In another scene, Knoxville, dressed as Icarus, explodes himself out of a cannon. Knoxville comments on this cannonball experience: “It feels like a 200-pound colonic up my ass!” And the movie ends with different types of explosions, involving vomiting on a Tilt-A-Whirl and being attacked by paintball gun attacks.

In one of the funniest scenes, England portrays a potential customer at a fake yard sale on someone’s front lawn. Unbeknownst to the people browsing at this yard sale, there’s a toilet “for sale” that’s been rigged to explode. First, England sits on the toilet as if to use it, while unsuspecting people look on in shock and disgust. No sooner does he sit on the toilet, then it explodes, as people react with horror. It’s a stunt that “Jackass” has done before. “Jackass Forever” features some other recycled stunts, with a select number of the original stunts shown in archival footage.

And speaking of doing “Candid Camera”-type of pranks on unsuspecting people outside of the group, “Jackass” has a few more. One of these pranks is when Knoxville reprises his disguised persona as an elderly grouch named Irv Zisman. As Irv, he goes into a furniture store with Wolfson (who plays Irv’s granddaughter), while Holmes pretends to be another customer. Holmes then falls from the second floor of the store and crashes into a piece of furniture that catapults Knoxville up like a cannon and causes Knoxville to crash through a ceiling.

Some of the most memorable stunts tap into the biggest fears that the “Jackass” team members have: damage to genitalia and being trapped somewhere with a wild animal that can cause bodily harm. Steve-O volunteers to have his naked genitals covered in bees. Lacy puts his genitals in a hole in a box and gets the genitals pummelled by mechanical fists.

Pontius encloses his penis in a ping-pong paddle device and “plays” with himself. (Use your imagination.) Wolfson says to him: “You’ll never be president [of the United States].” Poopies then jokes, “You never know. I’d vote for him.”

Danger Ehren endures the notorious Cup Test, where he wears a plastic cup guard over his genitals, but still voluntarily undergoes assaults to his groin area. His genitals are subjected to hard punches from mixed-martial-arts heavyweight Francis Ngannu; torpedo-like softball pitches from softball player Erin O’Toole; a hockey puck whacked by hockey player P.K. Subban; and pogo stick jumping from Poopies.

Animals that can kill humans are brought into the mix to bring on more terror. (In most cases, an animal trainer is nearby to prevent things from getting out of control.) Wolfson undergoes a “Scorpion Botox” challenge, where she has to let a scorpion bite her on the lip more than once. Poopies, England, Danger Ehren and Holmes are set up in “The Silence of the Lambs” challenge, where they are put in a dark room with a poisonous snake on the loose. In another stunt, Poopies loses a “mime” challenge and has to kiss a rattlesnake, which does exactly what you think it will do.

Jasper’s father—who goes by the nickname Dark Shark and is a self-described former gang banger—is recruited as a guest “Jackass” team participant. Dark Shark literally faces off against Danger Ehren in a challenge involving them wearing astronaut-sized glass helmets connected by a long tube. A large spider is then dropped into the tube, as Dark Shark and Danger Ehren frantically try to get the spider to go to the other person’s side of the tube and into the other person’s helmet. Later, Danger Ehren has the spider bite him on a nipple. Someone quips about the spider bite swelling the nipple: “Ehren went from a [bra size] AAA to a B.”

And there are two separate stunts involving “Jackass” guys being tied up and used as food bait for wild animals. The first of these stunts that’s shown in the movie is with a brown bear that is let loose in a room with Danger Ehren, who has honey and salmon poured all over his crotch. In the other stunt, Wee Man is tied up outdoors, with meat placed on him for a vulture to eat. Dark Shark is goaded into letting the vulture on his arm, and he shrieks that the vulture is biting him, when the vulture actually isn’t. Jasper than mutters on camera that he’s embarrassed by his father at that moment.

And it should come as no surprise that “Jackass Forever” uses semen (human and non-human) as part of the shenanigans. The movie’s opening sequence is a scripted scenario where members of the “Jackass” team are making a “monster on the loose” disaster movie, using miniature sets made to look like New York City. Pontius’ genitalia is used as a penis-sized dragon puppet running amok on the streets. You can guess that this dragon doesn’t spout fire but instead spouts something else on people. There’s another part of the movie where an unsuspecting England gets buckets of pig semen dumped on him. “I’m a vegetarian!” he says in disgust after finding out what was dumped on him, while everyone nearby laughs.

Even though “Jackass Forever” has a lot of high-risk stunts and pranks, a few of the stunts are tedious and weren’t worth putting in the movie. In one set-up, Knoxville instructs Wee Man to catch the much-larger and much-heavier Lacy and hold Lacy up in the air above his head, just like the famous dance move that Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey did near the end of “Dirty Dancing.” But this “Dirty Dancing” stunt never happened, because Lacy announces that he defecated on himself and pulls down his pants to prove it. (At least he gave enough advance warning, so viewers can look away.)

The anal fixation continues in a stunt where Steve-O is in a water tank, with the idea that he will fart underwater, and a methane-filled device nearby will cause an explosion. But apparently, the “Jackass” people don’t know basic chemistry about gas and water mixing, because this “experiment” doesn’t work until they bring in a methane blowtorch to force an explosion. It’s a stunt that’s ill-conceived and looks more like a clumsy outtake than something that deserved to be in the movie.

Don’t expect “Jackass” to show anything about the individual personal lives of these stunt/prank daredevils. Most of their personalities are indistinguishable from each other. Exceptions are obvious group leader Knoxville (who carries around a small taser that he uses to randomly zap people on the “Jackass” team) and Steve-O, who has long had the reputation of being the “craziest” of the “Jackass” team. Steve-O is the one most likely to laugh at himself and others during the most insane moments.

Out of everyone in the group, Danger Ehren gets the most methods of “torture” inflicted on him in “Jackass Forever,” by doing the most dangerous and nerve-wracking stunts that leave him bloodied and bruised. Knoxville does even more damage to himself, but from one stunt: While recreating a previous “Jackass” stunt where he tries to be like a bull matador in a pen with an angry bull, Knoxville (dressed as a magician) gets knocked out by a charging bull. He’s then shown being carried out on a stretcher, and then later getting out of a hospital. After being discharged from the hospital, Knoxville tells the camera that his bull-charging injuries were a broken wrist, a broken rib and a concussion.

As a disclaimer, “Jackass Forever” has warnings before and after the movie that all of the stunts were performed by professionals and shouldn’t be attempted by anyone else. It’s kind of a “covering our asses legally” façade though, because everyone knows that “Jackass” has inspired an entire industry of daredevil (mostly male) pranksters who want to be stars on social media for doing idiotic things that could cause bodily harm. As dopey and reckless as the “Jackass” franchise can be, if the purpose is to make people laugh, then “Jackass Forever” fulfills that purpose, although some people might laugh more than others.

Paramount Pictures released “Jackass Forever” in U.S. cinemas on February 4, 2022.

Review: ‘Above Suspicion’ (2021), starring Emilia Clarke, Jack Huston and Johnny Knoxville

May 30, 2021

by Carla Hay

Jack Huston and Emilia Clarke in “Above Suspicion” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Above Suspicion” (2021)

Directed by Phillip Noyce

Culture Representation: Taking place in Kentucky from 1988 to 1989, the crime drama “Above Suspicion” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A drug-addicted woman becomes a confidential informant to the FBI, and complications ensue when she gets emotionally involved with the FBI agent who is her contact.

Culture Audience: “Above Suspicion” will appeal mostly to people who don’t mind watching predictable and pulpy crime movies that put more emphasis on being tacky than being suspenseful.

Johnny Knoxville and Emilia Clarke in “Above Suspicion” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

The cheap-looking and tawdry drama “Above Suspicion” is based on a true crime story, but the movie foolishly gives away the ending at the very beginning of the film. In other words, if viewers don’t know what happened in this case in real life, they’ll know exactly what the outcome is in the movie’s opening scene, which has a morbid “voice from the dead” narration from the movie’s main character. “Above Suspicion” just goes downhill from there.

Directed by Phillip Noyce, “Above Suspicion” is one of those “flashback” movies where the narrator is telling what happened in the past. And in this movie (which takes place in 1988 and 1989), the narrator tells viewers that she’s already dead. Her name is Susan Smith (played by Emilia Clarke), a divorced mother of two children. She was in her late 20s when she died.

In these flashbacks of her life, Susan is a cocaine-snorting, pill-popping, marijuana-smoking ne’er do well who makes money by committing fraud. She’s been collecting government welfare checks from the state of West Virginia, which she’s not entitled to have because she actually lives in Kentucky, where she gets welfare checks too. And occasionally, Susan sells drugs to make money.

In the movie’s opening scene, Susan says in a voiceover: “You know what’s the worst thing about being dead? You get too much time to think. Thinking is painful. Knowing things is painful.”

To serve as a warning to viewers, a better way to open this movie would have been: “You know what’s the worst thing about a brain-dead movie? It wastes too much time. Watching it is painful. Knowing this movie could be so much better is painful.”

And sitting through all the cringeworthy lines that stink up this movie is painful. Chris Gerolmo wrote the “Above Suspicion” screenplay, which is based on journalist Joe Sharkey’s 1993 non-fiction book of the same name. People who’ve read that book will probably find this movie difficult to watch because it takes what was fascinating about this true crime book and turns it into a trashy melodrama.

Clarke, who is British in real life, attempts to give a believable and edgy performance as a Kentucky mother who’s lost her way in life and ends up falling for and clinging to a seemingly straight-laced married FBI agent. But there are moments when Clarke’s true British mannerisms come through, such as when she slips up and says the word “whilst” instead of “while” during one of the many scenes where her Susan character is yelling at someone. “Whilst” is not the kind of word that would be in the vocabulary of a Kentucky hillbilly like Susan.

Because “Above Suspicion” reveals in the opening scene that Susan is dead, the rest of this 104-minute movie is really just a countdown to Susan’s death. Given the lifestyle that she leads and what’s at stake when Susan gets involved with a married FBI agent with a squeaky-clean reputation, it’s not hard to figure out how she’ll die. And it won’t be from a drug overdose. If viewers don’t know what happened to the real Susan Smith in this case before they see “Above Suspicion,” it’ll become pretty obvious what her fate will be soon after this movie begins.

Susan lives in a dirty and disheveled house in Pikeville, Kentucky, with her sleazy ex-husband Cash (played by Johnny Knoxville), who’s a small-time drug dealer. They’re still living together because they can’t afford to get their own separate places. (In real life, the name of Susan’s ex-husband was Kenneth, but he really was a drug dealer.) Susan and Cash’s two children—an unnamed daughter who’s 7 or 8 years old (played by Lex Kelli) and a son named Isom who’s 5 or 6 years old (played by Landon Durrance)—don’t say much, probably because they’re shell-shocked by living in such a dysfunctional home.

Someone who does talk a lot is Susan. She and Cash have arguments and physical fights with each other, and she gets irritable or impatient with almost anyone who crosses her path, except for her children. Two other people who live in Susan and Cash’s dumpy house are an unemployed couple in their 20s: Joe B. (played by Karl Glusman) and his girlfriend Georgia Beale (played by Brittany O’Grady), who don’t seem to do much but sleep all day. Joe met Cash when they were in prison together. Cash is the one who invited Joe to stay at the house after Joe got out of prison. Needless to say, Susan isn’t very happy about it.

In one of the movie’s early scenes, Joe makes inappropriate sexual comments to Susan, who understandably gets upset. Joe also calls her “Susie,” which she hates. But then, Susan also takes her anger out on Georgia about it. Susan bursts into the room where Georgia is sleeping and berates her about Joe being a creep. As Susan storms back out of the room, she screams at Georgia, “Pay me my rent money, bitch!”

Joe actually has been making money, but in an illegal way. He’s secretly a bank robber who has been targeting banks in cities near Pikeville, with Georgia’s help as his occasional getaway driver. Susan knows this secret because Joe’s red Chevy pickup truck fits the news media’s description of the getaway car. And she’s found Joe’s stash of cash with the guns that were used in the robberies.

“Above Suspicion” has some druggie party scenes that are exactly what people might expect. And it’s only a matter of time before fights break out at these parties. Susan’s volatile younger brother Bones (played by Luke Spencer Roberts) predictably gets in one of these fights, which leads to a particularly violent scene that was fabricated for this movie, just to add more melodrama.

Susan says in a voiceover: “Welcome to Pikeville, the town that never lets go.” She also says that in Pikeville, which is plagued by drug addiction, there are two main ways that people make money: “the funeral business or selling drugs.” And earlier in the film, this is how Susan describes herself: “I was a regular girl once. But things go wrong, as things will.”

Susan’s life takes a fateful turn when she meets Mark Putnam (played by Jack Huston), an ambitious and fairly new FBI agent, who has transferred to Pikeville to investigate the bank robberies. When Susan first sees Mark, who’s two years older than she is, she describes him like a hunk straight out of a romance novel. It’s lust at first sight for Susan.

And when Susan finds out that Mark is the FBI agent leading the investigation into the robberies, she sees it as an opportunity to get to know him better. It isn’t long before she drops hints to Mark that she knows who the bank robber is, but she’s afraid to be exposed as a snitch. Mark offers to pay Susan for bits and pieces of information, and she becomes his main confidential informant.

Susan dangles enough tips for Mark to investigate to keep him coming back for more. There’s an ulterior motive, of course. Susan wants to seduce Mark. And because Mark is so different from the men she’s used to being involved with, Susan starts to fall in love with him. However, it’s debatable whether it’s true love or if it’s Susan just wanting a ticket out of her dead-end life. At one point, when Mark asks Susan what she wants most in her life, she answers, “Rehab and money.”

Susan knows that Mark is happily married and has a baby daughter with his wife Kathy Putnam (played by Sophie Lowe), but that doesn’t seem to deter Susan from having a fantasy that Mark will eventually leave Kathy to be with Susan. When Susan and Mark meet in out-of-the-way and deserted places in other Kentucky cities such as Portersville and Martin, it’s just like the clandestine way that secret lovers meet. Susan starts to tell Mark that they both make a great team, but she wants to make their “partnership” about more than FBI work.

“Above Suspicion” portrays Susan as toning down some of her vulgar and mean-spirited ways to try to seduce Mark. She gives him a lot of flattery and attention. And anyone watching this movie will not be surprised when Mark starts to fall for Susan too because he’s become slightly bored with his marriage. But Mark doesn’t feel so strongly about Susan that he wants to leave his wife. Mark has a big ego, and he enjoys being with someone who fuels that ego. Huston’s portrayal of Mark is as someone whose top priority in life is being the best at his job and getting recognition and praise for it.

Even if Mark were an available bachelor, Mark and Susan’s relationship has too many other issues, including a power imbalance and a difference in their social classes. And most troubling of all for Mark’s career is that getting sexually involved with Susan is a breach of ethics and an automatic compromise of the evidence that Mark is getting from her for this investigation. And once the investigation is over, where does Susan fit into Mark’s life?

Clarke and Huston (who is also British in real life) aren’t terrible in their roles, but they are hindered by a subpar screenplay. Huston’s Mark character is often written as two-dimensional, while Clarke’s Susan character displays over-the-top trashiness that becomes increasingly annoying, especially when Susan begins stalking Mark and his wife Kathy. It’s supposed to make Susan look emotionally needy, lovesick and vulnerable, but her obsession with Mark only makes her look mentally unhinged. As for Knoxville, his abusive Cash character is just another version of the scumbags that Knoxville usually portrays in movies.

There are some supporting characters in the movie that don’t add much to the story. Susan has a concerned older sister named Jolene (played by Thora Birch), who lives in West Virginia and occasionally calls Susan. Mark has a colleague named Todd Eason (played by Chris Mulkey), who’s retiring from the FBI in six months. There are an informant named Denver Rhodes (played by Omar Benson Miller) and an international drug dealer named Rufus (played by Brian Lee Franklin), who both appear in the last third of the movie.

Noyce’s direction of “Above Suspicion” aims for the movie to be gritty noir, but it’s really just low-budget junk. It’s very easy to predict how this story is going to end. And until that ending, which Susan already blabbed about in the voiceover narration, it’s just one scene after another of contrasting Susan’s riff-raff life with Mark’s law-enforcement life. These two worlds end up crashing in the most horrific of ways. And it’s too bad that the overall result is that “Above Suspicion” is a cinematic train wreck.

Lionsgate released “Above Suspicion” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on May 14, 2021. The movie was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 18, 2021.

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