Everyone plays against type in 3, 2, 1… Frankie Go Boom, none more so than Ron Perlman, who has a small role as a post-op transsexual hacker. The image of the burly, lantern-jawed actor in makeup and a wig, painting his toenails, is a terribly easy joke, but it’s the best one this otherwise abrasive comedy can manage. The rest of the cast works gamely at roles that aim for other types of edginess—Chris Noth as a gun-wielding fallen TV star getting over addiction, Lizzy Caplan as a heartbroken girl riding around on a bike while drunk and wearing an edible bra—but the desire to be outrageous continually, vexingly outweighs humor or character coherence.
Charlie Hunnam stars as the titular pushover, whose brother (Chris O’Dowd) has posted embarrassing videos of him on YouTube for years. One in which Hunnam learns his fiancée was cheating on him at their wedding made him an unwilling viral star and drove him to move to a trailer in Death Valley. When bullied by his mother into coming home for O’Dowd’s return from rehab, Hunnam is once again in danger of becoming an Internet celebrity when his sibling films his inability to perform with Caplan, whom he meets on the street and ends up taking home. Then the brothers travel around the city trying to take down the new video before too many people see it.
3, 2, 1… Frankie Go Boom presents Hunnam as the only sane person in a nutty world in which everyone else, including his mother, is always telling him to man up and get over the fact that his brother has offered up both his heartbreak and his impotence to the Internet to further a would-be directorial career. The film half agrees, which becomes frustrating—rather than buy some half-cooked crud about people being able to relate to his failures, Hunnam seems like he should at least be owed a chance to punch some family members in the face. He plays his character straight and gets a standard romantic-comedy side-story, but both become hard to buy amid the broad showbiz satire and more outsized goings-on. People this convinced they’re the only normal ones in the middle of constant lunacy should perhaps consider the possibility that they’re actually the crazy ones.