Review by Dan Skip Allen
It's always good to see new filmmakers making films. It's those filmmakers who go on to be the next big filmmakers we as film fans or critics look forward to. Seeing the films from up-and-coming filmmakers can be a surprise or a disappointment. They may still have work to do to get better, but sometimes they may have struck gold right off the gate. Small Engine Repair is in the middle of that range. It's not a bad film by any means, but it doesn't stick the landing. If it did it could have been a very good film.
John Pollono does double duty in this film. He directs and stars in it. Frank (Pollono) and his family live in New Hampshire. He has a daughter (Ciara Bravo, Cherry) and an estranged wife. His main focus in the film is his two buddies Swaino (Jon Bernthal) and Packie (Shea Whigham). After a bar brawl, they have a falling out. Frank decides to get the gang back together though after three months apart from each other at his small engine repair shop. This is a very fateful decision by him, though.
This film is an interesting one because of the friendship aspect of it. These guys drink together, watch ball games, go to various family functions and act as surrogate fathers for the other guy's kids. This is the epitome of what friends are for: to hang out with each other, pick on one another and tell stories about the past. One such story was about the 1986 World Series. I have a soft spot when it comes to that. Of course, my Red Sox lost in the most tragic way possible. when the ball rolled under Bill Buckner's legs, the Mets won game 6 and later went on to win the World Series in game 7. The curse of the bambino lived on for another sixteen years.
Small Engine Repair has a very interesting premise to it. These three friends are seeking revenge for something that had happened to a loved one of theirs. At its core, it is a simple idea. It gets bogged down with all kinds of crazy dialogue the scriptwriters threw in there that wasn't necessary. Just follow through with this revenge plot. Don't go all holier than thou on me just because it's not the simple thing to do. Go through with the obvious idea and make it work in the end. It's not hard to do that. Pollono does the best he can with what he has to work with, but it could have been better.
The cast in the film was very good — they acted out their parts very soundly. The direction by Pollono was serviceable with what he had to work with. The script is the biggest issue with this film. The screenwriter tried to be too safe with the story when they should just go to the next level. People would have been fine with that. It's the year 2021. We've seen violent revenge films before. This one had a nice twist to it but the screenwriter just wouldn't pull the trigger on it, pun intended.
Small Engine Repair is now in theaters and on VOD.