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Review: Stop and think before you commit to ‘Mr. Right’

Sam Rockwell in the action comedy "Mr. Right."

Sam Rockwell in the action comedy “Mr. Right.”

(Steve Dietl / Focus World)

“How’d you get that scar?” Martha (Anna Kendrick) asks her mysterious new beau, Francis (Sam Rockwell). He answers flippantly, something about a chunk of tile from an exploding building in Bosnia. What “Mr. Right” presupposes: What if he’s not kidding?

Playing with the notion that dating requires a certain amount of sarcastic “yes, and” banter, writer Max Landis ups the ante with a leading man who’s an assassin — with a code. Technically, he never lies to Martha about his job, because she thought he was joking in the first place.

It’s an amusing conceit, but the result is a cacophonous rom-com obsessed with its own quirks. Kendrick and Rockwell are ill-matched (partly due to a 17-year age difference) as star-crossed lovers who meet over a cascade of condoms in a convenience store.

Rockwell does the rakish charm thing as the hit man with a heart of gold, offing the people who hire him, because “murder is bad.” He shucks and jives through his fight sequences with swagger, relying on the “current,” the energy of objects that allows him to see where things are going.

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The object of his affection, Martha, is a neurotic, impulsive, whimsical mess reeling from a bad breakup. She blazes right past red flags in relationships, which is obvious when she’s swept off her feet by Francis. Kendrick, usually a cool cucumber, is wildly overacting, though the nutty role essentially requires it. Some subtlety could have gone a long way, but “Mr. Right” is the opposite of subtle — the lovers sport cat ears and clown noses as their signature look.

As directed by Paco Cabezas, the weapons fly in slo-mo, the soundtrack cycles through the hits and the zingers keep on coming. The plot is a mess, overstuffed with warring mobster brothers (James Ransone and Anson Mount) and a British assassin posing as a Southern-fried FBI agent (Tim Roth). It feels at once overwritten and thematically thin, coasting on a cutesy concept before descending into relentless, and therefore meaningless, violence.

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“Mr. Right.”

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MPAA rating: R for violence and language throughout.

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica.


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