Hollywood is a massive and ugly beast. It’s a machine that rolls along, churning out product for the masses. Its size and strength means that it can never be defeated from the outside (it may slowly rot from within and cannibalise itself, but that’s a story for another day). The ugliness of this beast makes the independent movie arena a beautiful thing. Hollywood is powered by money, while independent movies are powered by passion. People go to Hollywood to make money, while people make independent movies because they simply want to make movies. This brings me to Buddy Hutchins, a low budget black comedy from writer/director Jared Cohn starring Jamie Kennedy in the title role. This is a film that would never have been made within Hollywood today, not even if it had an A-lister in the lead. It just doesn’t suit the current business model, a model based around remakes and comic book adaptations.
Buddy Hutchins is a down on his luck owner of a dry cleaning business. His business is failing, his wife (Sara Malakul Lane) is having an affair and his son hates him. The only beacon of hope in his life is his daughter. Just when Buddy thinks things can’t get any worse, they do when he loses his business, his mother (Sally Kirkland) dies and his beloved daughter is taken away from him. This causes Buddy to finally crack, something which leads to him taking revenge on those who have wronged him.
Playing like a modern day parable, Buddy Hutchins is a film which shows how the economy and social restraints affect people in the world today. It shows that maybe the American Dream isn’t achievable for everyone and that at some point people will have to settle for much less. Society has told us that we can have whatever we want and achieve whatever we dream of. The reality of the situation isn’t quite as glamorous and people snap, people like Buddy.
Jamie Kennedy holds his own in the lead role, as he clearly understands the tone that Cohn is going for, giving Buddy an edgy cartoonish quality that suits his off-kilter world. Kennedy is best known for his comedic work, in the late ‘90s early ‘00s, and this persona helps to add to Buddy’s character – that of the eternal teen who has to grow up and face something that’s even worse than reality – middle age. Steve Hanks impresses as Buddy’s older, more successful bother. He manages to come across as sleazy and earnest, hitting the occasional comic mark in the process.
It’s obvious that Buddy Hutchins doesn’t have the largest budget, but Cohn and his crew work around this. There’s some nice camera work and the music helps add to Buddy’s character as an over-grown man-child. However, the film really impresses with the special effects. These kick-in once Buddy goes on his chainsaw fuelled killing spree. It’s always good to see practical effects on screen, no matter what the film’s budget is.
On a tonal level Buddy Hutchins plays like Falling Down meets After Hours by way of Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste and the movie hits the right low-budget gore notes. It’s never going to compete with Hollywood but that’s not the point. The David and Goliath battle between the independents and Hollywood never actually took place, VOD stepped in and gave everyone their own place to play. Buddy Hutchins is worth watching to see that there’s more to movies than big budget Hollywood fare.