Perhaps it was only a matter of time before we started seeing movies by people who consider Guy Ritchie a formative influence. Confusing busy with energetic, commercial veteran Antoine Bardou-Jacquet’s debut feature Moonwalkers piles on broad bit characters, sadistic violence, and trippy slow-mo in an attempt to put some zip and flash into a lead-footed farce about a CIA agent who is sent to the U.K. to talk Stanley Kubrick into helping fake the moon landing, but gets stuck with a couple of losers who’ve run afoul of the London underworld. Writer Dean Craig (Death At A Funeral) mostly ditches the conspiracy theory premise to focus on hippies, gangsters, and drug jokes, building to a predictable Ritchie-esque climax in which loose ends are tied up by having two different groups of angry people with guns run into each other.
Reliably game caveman actor Ron Perlman plays the CIA agent, Kidman, who is given a briefcase full of cash and classified documents and sent to London to get Kubrick to film a hoax landing in the event that the real Apollo 11 fails. (Naming a character after one of the stars of Eyes Wide Shut is the extent of Moonwalkers’ reference to Kubrick works that aren’t A Clockwork Orange or the opening credits of 2001: A Space Odyssey.) Arriving just after Kubrick’s coked-up agent has rushed out of his office with a nosebleed, Kidman instead mistakenly makes the offer to Jonny (Rupert Grint), a down-on-his-luck rock band manager who has come by to borrow money. Jonny, in turn, plays along, enlisting his bearded roommate (Robert Sheehan) to impersonate the director.
Being the kind of quote-unquote comedy where convoluted plotting mostly stands in for jokes, Moonwalkers outs Jonny early on, instead having him talk Kidman into a plan B involving an art commune. (Cue inevitable “crew-cut square on LSD” sequence). Then there are the gangsters, as well as ’Nam flashbacks (Perlman is about 30 years too old for this role) and some business involving Jonny’s only clients, a band whose deluded lead singer wants to write a rock opera and believes that people enjoy watching him masturbate on stage. Given Bardou-Jacquet’s TV ad background, it’s not surprising that the movie is only interesting in minute-long chunks, as in the psychedelic animated opening credits sequence, which comes complete with a cross-dressing, fart-lighting Nixon and predatory breasts.
Apparently set in the 1969 of 1990s movies—the only surprise being that it takes until right before the end credits for “Fortunate Son” to come on—Moonwalkers doesn’t have as much as a glint of an original idea in it, despite its seemingly offbeat premise (which, again, the movie gives up on early) and the oddball leads; even if they’re not given much to do, the small and red-haired Grint and the imposing Perlman are at least visually interesting, resembling a comic strip duo. However, by the umpteenth scene where the “joke” is that one of the characters is on drugs, the movie’s strained wackiness becomes wearisome.