Whatever Doesn’t Kill You (2008)

Dir. Brian Goodman
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke,

Not a bad film, but I’m not confident recommending this—although some people (like Mitchell and Joel) might think this is OK.

The title comes from a quote from Nietzche—“whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” I had a desire to see more Ethan Hawke since he impressed in recent films I’v seen, and this looked like a cool action/crime film. The fil–more of a drama and certainly not an action film–is a true story about two good friends who work for a local crime boss in South Boston. One of them, Brian (Ruffalo) also has a wife and two kids and eventually wants to get away from a life of crime. The film is similar to films like Mean Streets and even Goodfellas to some extent, but is not as good as either.

I realize that this was based on a true story of the director’s, and there is something nice about that—especially given the fate of at least one of the characters. Unfortunately, I have to say this was slow and boring. We’ve seen this story a thousand times, and the filmmakers don’t really add anything fresh—certainly not enough to make this worth watching imo. That, in a nutshell, describes my problem with the film.

This film partly depended on Ruffalo’s performance, especially his love for his wife and kids; his desire to turn his life and the frustration of not being able to. Ruffalo is a solid actor, but here I don’t think he delivered the goods. Perhaps, the blame goes to the director, but I can’t say for certain. The poor Boston accent (was he even trying?) didn’t help, although that’s a minor complaint. Not showing the way his character really had a serious change of heart—partly because of his love for his family—was a more significant problem. He just didn’t convince me, and when his character shows a desire to change, I was a little surprised. I would have liked the film more if the filmmakers had convinced me about this transformation.

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