Despite some directorial mishandling on the part of Rage mastermind Paco Cabezas, Mr. Right offers further proof that screenwriter Max Landis is one of, if not the most fun-loving minds working in Hollywood today. Complete with a pair of terrific performances from Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell, this action-packed romantic comedy mashup celebrates the things that make us unique with a story decidedly crafted with adults in mind.
Every good romance begins in a place of sadness. For Martha (Kendrick), it’s the end of a supposedly great relationship that propels her towards her one true love. She meets Mr. Right (Rockwell), a man she falls for without ever thinking to ask his name, after several days of drinking and altogether acting manic. She needs an escape and escapism is where Mr. Right excels. When they’re together everything is light, everything is fun, and everything is exactly what Martha believes she needs at this point in her life. Her complete lack of knowledge regarding Mr. Right’s history and identity are of no immediate concern because living in the now is downright intoxicating, but before long Martha doesn’t know how she ever lived without this mysterious stranger in her life.
Right, it turns out, is a reformed bad guy who isn’t afraid to get messy when the situation calls for extreme action. He’s a former hitman for hire who now kills anyone who hires him due to a late blooming and decidedly twisted moral compass whose origin is lies in a deeply personal betrayal. Right’s considerable training in the deadly arts keeps him ahead of the law and out of the path of assassins’ bullets, but even he cannot resist the dizzying power of young love when Martha quite literally wanders into his life. Right sees something in Martha that even she doesn’t realize is there, and he immediately sets to showing her how he sees the world.
Landis rarely pens a script without adding bit of surrealism to the mix (Chronicle, American Ultra), and Mr. Right is no exception. Both Martha and Right possess an ability that, without giving too much away, allows them to think clearly in the midst of chaos. This unusual characteristic could pull the entire film into low-rent superhero territory, but it’s never leveraged to the point that it steals focus from the chemistry between the leads. Like most romcoms, Mr. Right lives and dies on the likability of its stars, and the pairing of Kendrick and Rockwell is essentially perfect. You’re rooting for their love to succeed long before the action elements of the story fully develop, and in the end it’s that desire to see their relationship continue that keeps you glued to the screen.
All that said, balancing the action and romance is one place where Mr Right struggles, but the film does better than most its peers in making the two sides of its story compliment one another. The action never loses distracts from the romance, and the romance never drags down the quality of the action. Still, the film makes a clear tonal pivot somewhere near the middle that changes the feel of the entire narrative in ways that are never completely justified. It works, but not as well as you feel it should, and that underlying frustration of knowing how much better the film could have been never stops eating away at you.
Mr. Right is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is thoroughly fun and original, which is more than you can say for most features released in 2016. Both Rockwell and Kendrick are terrific, and they know how to get the biggest reactions from Landis’ witty script. As far as I am concerned, this film sets a new standard for action-fueled romance, and I hope to see a wave of new, equally original titles enter production in the wake of its release. If that doesn’t happen, at least we’ll have this film, and it’s more than good enough to keep you coming back again and again.