2020 | rated R | starring Tyler Cornack, Ryan Koch, Shelby Dash | directed by Tyler Conrack | 1 hr 39 mins |
The indie comedy thriller with the catnip of a title Butt Boy joins a fairly large group of indie films about fetishes (also see this year’s Swallow) as well as an even small corner of pop culture that includes the toilet agony horror Bad Milo, Takashi Miike’s Gozu, the Chuck Palahniuk adapted Choke or the Seinfeld episode “The Fucilli Jerry” about things going in or coming out of a person’s butt. Director and star Tyler Conrack and his co-star/co-writer Ryan Koch have put together a perfect movie to get sucked into over pizza and beer after midnight at a college dorm. For all of it’s low brow explorations and ugly visuals the movie writes rules into the universe of it’s slightly skewed world as it goes. I was both nauseated and intrigued as to where this thing was going and how it could possibly end.
Chip (Tyler Conrack) is a bored IT guy at an obnoxious telemarketing company with a spunky wife Anne (Shelby Dash) when one random day a routine prostate exam opens his world up to the stimulatory pleasures of putting things up his butt. Soon board game pieces are no longer enough and he graduates to larger things – neighborhood dogs and flag poles. Russel Fox (Ryan Koch) is an alcoholic cop who joins AA and gets assigned to Chip, kicking his own habit, as a sponsor, but when a child disappears Fox starts to think that Chip knows more about the disappearance than he can say.
This movie has sections that are just nauseating, but one thing I am a sucker for is a work that takes a very silly idea and plays it as serious and straight-faced as possible. That’s where Butt Boy’s strength lies. It plays like a How To of deadpan farce. For about 2/3rds of it’s running time Cornack masters the tone of a grungy, gritty crime thriller – so much so that I’m refusing to even classify it as a comedy. It goes the more difficult route – it is a thriller that happens to be centered around a powerful anus.
It also flips the leading man script on us. Chip is our villain, who looks, sounds and acts like your average movie hero. This is the guy who, in a Hollywood script, would gain confidence, rebel against the corporate drudgery and become the hero. He looks like Nick Kroll or Martin Starr while our hero Fox looks like William Forsythe in The Rock, the crooked abusive cop type. Butt Boy turns both dynamics on their head. My biggest issue with the film is how under-developed both guys are. They have a story, particularly Fox, but if the movie were ever-grounding it’s lunacy with realism I’d like to see more from both of them. My biggest problem with Chip is how utterly, uselessly, dysfunctional he is. He has a wife and a kid yet struggles to get 2 words out most of the time or even fain interest in anything. I get that that’s the point, but it’s unclear how he’s maintained both his marriage and his job this long.
Where the movie goes and how satisfying that is, is going to be up for heavy debate. The third act is wild. I’ve seen things I can’t unsee. Conrack and Koch take their concept to it’s most fully realized extent, which is ultimately satisfying, but I can’t help but think it shows too much. They take it to almost supernatural Being John Malcovich levels that break the straight face into pure farce. I’m not sure if a bit of mystery would have been better or come off frustratingly pretentious here. I’m not even sure if I was entertained by the movie, if I can sit here and call it “good” or “bad”. People might love it as a tonally balance skewing of the cop drama – but it’s not really that – and people might hate it as being infantile or grotesque – and it’s not really that either.
That’s ultimately where I come down on it. While I admire the film’s unblinking follow-through with it’s concept, it ultimately doesn’t amount to much. It’s not thrilling enough or funny enough or go far enough in the AA-sponsor/sponsee relationship dynamic. It’s a new idea or at least a new take on the serial killer thriller and sometimes in order to break through the noise you have to be a bit scatological. South Park proved that 2 decades ago. Butt Boy is dark and weird and uncomfortable and it guides us through farce to a solid and satisfying finale. It’s a novelty that relishes in being a novelty. When the novelty is this unique and the end result this unpredictable, sometimes that’s ok.