Some nights continuously devolve and spiral out of control, and from afar, the situation may have its humor. The Hangover captured the concept perfectly and now a growing number of films have begun to recapture similar success. Heavy Times, a low-budget indie with the same mind-set, attempts to portray Generation Y awkwardness with frat-comedy tendencies.
Dan, Mark and Hugh finish up the day at their paltry jobs, borrow a tricked-out van for the weekend, and head to Dan’s sister’s for dinner. Rick, Dan’s brother-in-law, is crude, obese and obnoxious. He teases and insults the trio and slowly inches his way into their night, hinting at them to take a trip to Montreal. Rick continually intimidates and manipulates the trio into staying up and looking for the next chance to up the ante.
Rick is a cancer to both his wife and the trio. He siphons the trio’s money and time, insults them, and breaks their confidence more than the trio’s natural circumstances has already done. He is always looking for the next segue to keep the night going when in truth he battles with personal issues of his own. Rick’s emotional breakdowns conflict with his in-your-face vulgarity; he hides behind a tough exterior. Unemployment, a failing marriage, alcohol and drug abuse all factor into his destructive behavior. His intimidating persona is the only catalyst for the plot to proceed, and it’s a mediocre one at that.
While Rick is the traveling antagonist, his character is far more developed than any other’s. Dan, Mark and Hugh might as well have been the same character. Rick, hiding behind his own insecurities, reached out to the three. There was a commonality between them and Rick that the trio was unable to accept. Their jobs are so meager they might as well have been unemployed. All three main characters exhibit disdain with their current employment situation after college. Their collective passivity is their downfall. Unsure of how to deal with Rick’s vulgarity, they continuously fall deeper into the rabbit hole. Post-college employment is low and Heavy Times unintentionally examines this theme with Rick’s behavior and the trio’s lack of interest in attaining higher status in employment.
The film was at its best with its parallel storytelling. When the plot diverged, the tension increased, a pleasant surprise compared to the first two acts, which were agonizing to get through. While the parallel storylines raised the stakes, the individual storylines leave the viewer apathetic. The denouement is rather plausible, sobriety hitting the gang with the same in-your-face vulgarity that Rick offered all night, and the aftermath most have after a devolving night like in Heavy Times.
The film’s characters are out of balance due to the appropriately casted Rick, played by Jeff Koen. Koen plays the obnoxious drunk down to perfection. Yet, Dan, Mark and Hugh cannot keep up with his antics. They are all passive and one-dimensional, terrible characteristics for main characters. Their lack of motivation, although sparking motivation for Rick, prevents sympathy and alignment with these characters.
Heavy Times leans heavily on contemporary gross-out road-trip films, but does revel in its own plot and comes up just short of being a fresh contributor to the genre. As a low-budget indie, Heavy Times is a concise film that shows promise, but does not take the risks necessary to take it to the next level, just like Dan, Mark and Hugh.