Tue, 18 Sept 2018
FROM its original run as a hate-baiting MTV phenomenon to its better-known incarnation as a puerile cinematic franchise, Jackass was that rarest of things, an unabashed gimmick that didn’t know quite when to take its foot of the accelerator.
At its best (Jackass 3D’s Poo Cocktail Supreme, Jackass: The Movie’s unspeakable Toy Car Prank) it was hare-brained, gross-out fun. While the series never quite did for the ‘extreme stunt’ sub-genre what Sacha Baron Cohen’s legendary Borat did for the mockumentary, it proved beyond a shade of a doubt that movies can be utterly, irredeemably daft and still obtain for themselves a well-merited cult following. Still, the more limited, disciplined pranks always tended to hit harder, a fact which does much to explicate the direction of the franchise over time – the last ‘official’ entry, Bad Grandpa, disposed wholesale of the old crew and opted for a string of stagier, less-spectacular pranks, centred almost entirely upon the person of Johnny Knoxville’s sweary, mishap-prone oldster. As a standalone effort, it made for a more coherent watch than previous Jackass outings, yet its very existence felt inexplicable and incongruous – imagine if Peter Jackson had followed up The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers with … Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.
This critic is averse to long-winded introductions, least of all where a vulgar stunt flick is concerned, but it was only appropriate in the case of Action Point. Where Bad Grandpa came across more than a little misjudged in an age where we were just about ready to put Wee Man, et al, on ice, this spiritual successor is bound to alienate even newcomers to the never-ending bonanza – in fact, it eschews the Jackass tag entirely, despite its slavish dependence on Knoxville’s reputation as a daredevil and provocateur par excellence. The latter dons the prosthetics once again to play DC Carver, the
drunkard owner of a ramshackle’70s amusement park. Outcompeted by the kinder, gentler mega-park down the road, Carver resolves to axe all safety restrictions on the rides. What follows is – you guessed it – just over an hour of Knoxville getting whacked, mangled and mauled in a succession of tortured set pieces, as his traumatised
daughter (Eleanor Worthington Cox) looks despondently on.
Whereas the official Jackass offerings made up for their sheer, braindead gratuitousness with an inimitable sense of homemade anarchy, Action Point lacks any such ‘organic’ pretences – it’s a cash cow that doesn’t know how to be a cash cow, lumbering mindlessly from one bizarre jape to the next. Allegedly, the project was conceived as a Disaster Artist-esque documentary-comedy, inspired by the legend that has grown up around a defunct New Jersey death-trap (which also served as the namesake for ultra-abrasive indie band Shellac’s 1994 album At Action Park). Thankfully – if that’s the right word – the film makes its true agenda clear within the first few scenes, as we’re subjected to a rehash of the Bad Grandpa back catalogue – it’s downhill, up, away and smack-bam through a barn door from there on out. If you’ve ever wanted to see real-life squirrels ravage Knoxville’s nuts, here’s the film you’ve been waiting for. If Ashton Kutcher’s Punk’d was a little too Czech New Wave for your tastes, then here’s something to whet your appetite before the next American Pie reunion.
Non-masochists are warned: here be monsters.