As MMA enjoys increased popularity and its fighters transition into film roles, we at Cage Potato consider it our duty to you to sit down with a bowl of popcorn and bunch of beers to view these films and report back on them. A selfless act? Sure. A public service of inestimable value? Maybe. But that’s we feel we owe our loyal readers, and that’s what you’ll get. Like it or not.
To the unsophisticated eye, “Frankenhood,” starring occasional MMA fighter and pro wrestler Bob Sapp, is little more than an unfunny comedy seemingly shot in one long take over the course of a long weekend. But look deeper and you’ll see that this is all an illusion, deftly pulled off by genius director Blaxwell Smart and bolstered by a commanding performance from Sapp.
“Frankenhood” can’t be a failed comedy, because it isn’t a comedy at all. You see, a comedy has jokes. It has scenes or dialogue or even just physical acts that are designed to get a laugh. “Frankenhood” has none of those. Sure, there are some mildly humorous moments, such as when the title character is brought back to life and his first onscreen act is a fart, but you can’t expect film masters like Smart and writer/producer Dan Filie to get through a full 92 minutes without making you laugh just a little. Their gifts supersede the film’s goals at times, and that can’t be helped.
Really, “Frankenhood” is a daring, experimental bit of cinema, with the guts to try things that mainstream, big-budget, non-Sapp movies would never even attempt. For instance, there is the decision to have Sapp simply moan and grunt throughout most of the movie, only to utter a full, uninflected sentence at the end. And not only are we never given a reason to believe that the mentally unstable morgue worker played by Charlie Murphy has truly figured out a way to reanimate dead bodies, all we know about the actual reanimation process is that it involves a green liquid of some kind and jumper cables that are inexplicably attached to one another and not the body.
Later, when Murphy drifts in and out of the film at his own leisure, alternating between a confused state and a suddenly coherent one, there is no explanation at all, just as there is no explanation for what prompts Frankenhood’s surprise recovery from a vague affliction during the climactic basketball scene.
To rookie moviegoers, these seem like plot holes. To the trained eye, however, they are indicators that Smart and Filie have so much faith in the intelligence of their audience that they are freed from the normal constraints of cause-and-effect that bring down most movies. In the world of “Frankenhood,” things just happen. The dead spring back to life with childish glee. Love interests materialize out of nowhere, with no reason, and often with inexplicable knowledge of information that is vital to the plot.
When the film’s antagonist, played by “The Wire’s” Hassan Johnson, learns that his rivals in the three-on-three basketball tournament (which seems to go on for at least a week) have a dead man on their team, he doesn’t even think to question it. He merely accepts that a deceased man has come back to life and is now playing in a basketball tournament, and this is a situation that must be dealt with.
These are the master strokes that make “Frankenhood” move with such speed and ease. The bizarre cuts, the tenuous relationship to time, the many scenes that serve neither to entertain nor to advance the plot, that’s how you know that though Blaxwell Smart may be a rookie director, he is no novice. He’s a man with a revolutionary approach to filmmaking, and all he needs to make his dream come true is an actor skilled enough in making idiotic facial expressions to bring this corpse to life. If there is anybody who does that better than Sapp, I don’t want to meet him. I really, truly mean that.