Older men getting hornswoggled into mentoring aimless boys has a fine tradition in cinema. Most recently, Bill Murray channelled the boozy, degenerate version of the character in St. Vincent, a follow-up to the aloof millionaire type he played in Rushmore. Ashby is Mickey Rourke’s first foray into the genre of questionable surrogate father figures (although he did play a questionable actual father in The Wrestler, so that must count for something).
Here Rourke is playing the eponymous Ashby, who is conveniently available to Ed, played by Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, The Fault In Our Stars). And because you can’t have an earnestly awkward new kid in town without a slightly overwhelmed single mother, there’s one of those too, played by Sarah Silverman. You also need to have a reason why being a little bit nerdy isn’t perfectly fine, so We’re The Millers’ Emma Roberts is Eloise, the girl whom Ed feels pressured to impress.
Of course, the counterintuitive sensei genre is established enough that you can’t just have the elder Ashby Mr. Miyagi-ing young Ed without some kind of angle. And so it turns out his crazy old Ben Kenobi is actually a retired CIA assassin. From the trailer, it looks like retirement is a relative term for Ashby, who devotes his free time to showing the nerdy Ed how to take punches and inconspicuously flee the scene of hit jobs. While Sarah Silverman worries that Ashby is touching her son’s privates, Ed is getting molded into a football-playing athlete. He also turns out to be pretty helpful at shuttling Ashby around town for some Grosse Pointe Blank-type errands.
Will Ed become confident enough to win Eloise, without going full jock? Will he build a healthier relationship with his mother, so that she can focus a little time on being the awkward new mom in town? Will Ed and Ashby go see Jersey Boys together? The answers to these questions will hopefully be provided when Ashby hits theaters and iTunes on September 25.