Pros and Ex-Cons (AKA Fink) was directed and written by Timothy Boyle (On Halloween) and stars Brian Cobb (Indigo Lake), Selwyn Pretorius, Steve Bastoni (Matrix Reloaded, The Water Diviner), Sam Worthington (Drift, The Last Son), John Boxer (Son of a Gun, Circle of Lies), Jason Crewes (The Plex, Enemies Closer), and David Wheeler (Sher Mountain Killings Mystery). It’s about two young men tangled in a web of shady deals trying to use their contacts to fix their screw-ups.
The Plot: In the wake of Guy Ritchie’s breakout movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, there were plenty of imitators attempting to ride the wave of absurdist scenarios with unpredictable and interconnected storylines. Boyle’s shot, Pros and Ex-Cons, completely misses the mark from start to finish, failing to give clarity to the overarching plot from the get-go.
Brad (Cobb) has come up with a get-rich-quick scheme of scraping off the top of an underground bank network and uses Rohan (Pretorius) to create a program that falsifies a transaction account and records that first need to be placed in the bank. How this program works is kind of explained, but not with any great detail since it’s so stupid that it really couldn’t be.
Brad gets cocky and into debt with Fink (Wheeler), the owner of the bank, causing Fink to send hitmen Able (Worthington) and Willing (Bastoni) after Brad and Rohan, who hire Jesse (Boxer) to protect them while they figure everything out.
All this is meant to seem more complicated than it really is, with Pros and Ex-Cons jumping around to set up characters but doesn’t give itself the time to give more than a cursory introduction to each facet of its tale. There are even more characters in the mix such as Jason (Crewes), who’s meant to replace the other hitmen in the mix, but they’re distant from the plot’s source so it’s just time poorly spent. Pros and Ex-Cons doesn’t set up anything convincingly or with much competence and it’s an awkward sit for its entirety.
The Characters: Boyle tries to create likeable criminals who are physically bumbling, yet lucky. But again mostly fails with a couple of minor exceptions. Brad is meant to be one of those types who works to look smarter than he is, trying to rope people into his schemes and giving them a cut of what he gets. This is a fine place to start a plot and it’s worked before.
But he doesn’t have a good plan to start with, nor the quality of dialogue to convince the audience that he himself could convince someone else to take a risk on him. That’s all there is to him aside from Rohan, who really takes away from Brad’s potential to make the story more personal
Willing and Able, a clear pun, are closer to what the goal clearly was for Boyle, yet still fall way short of par. They have some of the right qualities for the scenario in that they’ve just finished botching a job when they’re brought on to take back some money that Jason got his hands on and are more outwardly comedic than the main character, but a lot of the comedy just doesn’t land.
Fink is cartoonishly over-the-top. Not in a good way like a Guy Ritchie character though; more like the kind of character that the Austin Powers movies made fun of – with a fish tank in his lair and a scar across his face – he’s an overshoot of what Pros and Ex-Cons intended and hardly gets brought up in any scene that isn’t an interrogation but is at least more memorable than the other grab bag of goobers.
The Crime: Pros and Ex-Cons’ criminal escapades are easily the most confusing part of the movie. It’s Brad’s disc-based program, the dated catalyst for all of the stakeouts and chases, that deserves the most scrutiny. Boyle doesn’t stick with his plan, instead shifting the focus onto cash given to Jason and his two friends by Fink for cleaning up the mess that Willing and Able made with their previous job, which the new cleaners intend to run away with, but Fink already planned that the trio would be a twosome, so why did he trust and hire them in the first place?
It’s these kinds of holes as wide as an ocean that plague the crime plot and causes it to spin its wheels until they blow out, and most of them come from Fink’s involvement with the story, which was starving for a handful of rewrites. Some interrogation scenes meant to show how ruthless Fink is and how far his reach as a crime boss goes also bungle their impact since the interrogators only ask “where’s the (x)?” over and over again and then somehow get their information and show up where the plot requires them to be.
Also relating to Fink is his self-professed waning reputation which is never brought up. The criminal element of Pros and Ex-Cons strives to expand itself to show what all of these misfits have gotten themselves into, yet never even bothers to mention the world around them. As a cherry on top, the movie never circles back to the initial plan and essentially refuses to acknowledge it existed. That’s the biggest crime here.
The Technics: Plainly and simply Pros and Ex-Cons needed more money to be what it aspired to be. There’s at least an earnest attempt to create style via character intro graphics and a playful, but painfully overbearing at times, score. However, what doesn’t require money is wit. A small handful of moments are actually chuckle-worthy, such as one where Jason describes his welfare situation and a dependent he has, and Able (or Worthington, rather) doing a remarkable impression of Fink, but there needed to be more.
Little things ache the movie as well, such as flat camerawork and an overuse of stock sound effects that border on cartoonish while the rest of Pros and Ex-Cons tries to remain at least somewhat gritty. It’s the financial end that really drags this movie down.
Pros and Ex-Cons is almost a complete failure at its (what I like to call) crimeody goal. The plot’s got huge holes, its villain doesn’t fit, the crime goes in circles, and, most offensively, there weren’t enough laughs in this absurdist crime caper.
Pros and Ex-Cons is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital from Lionsgate.