Released: 12th November
Seen: 23rd November
Some films follow familiar tropes in order to tell their story, look at the slasher films of the 80s who all leapt on the basic structure that Halloween laid out and kept twisting it in various ways. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, story structures exist for a reason… they work. They’re a good foundation to work with and can often lead to great films when handled properly. Then there’s the kind of film that feels like it took a really popular films story and filed off the serial numbers… this is that kind of film.
The Comeback Trail, a remake of the 1982 film of the same name, follows Max Barber (Robert De Niro) a film producer who is in serious debt with a mob boss named Reggie Fontaine (Morgan Freeman). With a million dollars needed to pay off his debt, Max comes up with a brilliant idea. He hires old, borderline suicidal, former action legend Duke Montana (Tommy Lee Jones) and secretly insures the actor for millions, planning on having Duke die during an on set accident and using the money to pay his debts. Unfortunately for Max, Duke is a lot harder to kill than he looks.
So even though The Comeback Trail is a remake of a 1982 film, while watching it all I kept thinking about was a 1969 film that was also about a producer named Max that raised a lot of money through illicit means… except The Producers was a laugh a minute riot that’s still worth talking about 51 years later and this version of The Comeback Trail had maybe five lines that got a mild chuckle and all of them appear in the trailer. For a film where three Oscar Winners all try to do various injuries to each other while spouting assorted quips, it’s just so very boring.
When your entire plot just revolves around “Here’s a guy who we need to kill, how many ways can we do that” I expect to spend a lot more of the films runtime laughing than I did wondering if I could just catch a nap on the very comfy seat I happened to find myself in. The story was pretty predictable, I gave you the opening and I’m confident you can guess how it ends. A lack of surprise is one thing but when I can walk in and basically describe the entire movie from start to end based on the first few minutes, that’s a problem.
It also just feels like a waste of the three Oscar winning actors who are playing these cartoon characters that never feel like they’re worth caring about. Tommy Lee Jones ends up walking away with the most laughs but he’s also the one doing the more physical comedy moments which really helps. In all honesty, most of the film just isn’t that memorable or funny, it’s not even awful in any noticeable way. It’s just a pedestrian version of a film that has been done much better before.
I can definitely give The Comeback Trail credit for looking nice, there’s a visual flair that really sells this feeling of a seedy producer running a cheap set. Some shots are nice to look at, maybe with the sound muted you could trick yourself into thinking this was a laugh riot but… god, when I’m sitting here going “Well, they aimed the camera in the right direction” that kinda makes it sink in just how bored I was during this film.
The Comeback Trail isn’t really worth being called a comeback, cos it’s been here for years. It’s old familiar story, weak jokes and broad cartoonish performances leads to a film that might be worth a late night viewing on TV but there’s a reason why no one’s really pushing it, because it’s just not that memorable… again, this film has 3 Oscar winners and yet I can barely bring myself to care enough to write about how average it is.