'Gentlemen Broncos' is the third feature film from the ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ co-writer and director Jared Hess. It concerns Benjamin, a dirt poor lonely boy from a very small town in Utah. Benjamin dreams of being a sci fi / fantasy writer but, when his ideas are stolen by his literary idol, Dr. Ronald Chevalier, he falls into despair.
A low-key mix of dry deadpan comedy and the plain silly, ‘Gentlemen Broncos’ was denied a general release because of poor test audience reactions, but has had something of a second life on DVD and satellite TV. I won’t make any claims for it as a flawless masterpiece, but it’s one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen in recent years: a charming, ridiculous, cheap, nerdy pleasure.
In a brilliant touch, scenes from Benjamin’s book (‘Yeast Lords: The Bronco Years’) are presented twice, sometimes three times: as Benjamin sees them, as the fraudulent Dr. Chevalier has revised them, and through the no budget camera of the appalling Lonnie Donaho, a local ‘auteur’ who has purchased the rights to the story with a postdated cheque. Not only does this allow some fantasy counterpoint to a story that largely takes place in the mundane spaces of the rural American west, but it also lets the director parody sci fi films and low budget movies in general, including the awful melodrama that Benjamin is induced to appear in, playing a sensual stable hand.
Michael Angarona plays Benjamin with an air of desperate resignation, his hangdog face and dying puppy eyes permanently prepared for the next kick in the teeth. Sam Rockwell gives a broad but highly enjoyable performance as Benjamin’s fictional mono-orchid hero, Bronco, carrying off both wild beard and, in Chevalier’s version, white disco mullet and porn star moustache. Perhaps the best performance comes from ‘Flight Of The Conchords’ Jermaine Clement as the distinguished (but increasingly desperate) sci fi guru, Chevalier. The bad doctor, with his nasal voice, literary pretensions and Native American jewelry is a perfect comic creation, a pompous, ridiculous character, a King of the Dorks who will do anything to avoid losing his crown.
Here’s the trailer.