Dir. by Artie Mandelberg - 1 hr. 23 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
I didn't hate this movie. Going in to a WWE Studios production, it's very easy to have a lot of negative preconceptions about what you're going to see. For me, that's mitigated by my being a wrestling fan, and more specifically, a fan of the star of "Bending the Rules," Adam "Edge" Copeland. Going in, I was mostly curious as to whether or not as to whether Edge could pull off being the star of an entire film, and how bad the film was going to be.
The film is about a possibly corrupt detective named Nick Blades (Copeland), who is on trial for diverting some money from a drug bust. Blades doesn't seem too concerned about it, even though the prosecuting attorney, Theo Gold (Jamie Kennedy), is a hardline law-and-order type. The jury deadlocks, and while Blades remains on administrative leave until the matter is cleared up, he gets drawn into Gold's employ via Theo's mother, Lena Gold (Jessica Walter), who is a famous actress that Blades is infatuated with. Blades is hired to track down a stolen automobile, and ends up having to protect Theo from some criminal types who have an interest in his earlier work. Mismatched buddy film, level one cleared.
I know this is going to be disappointing to read, but "Bending the Rules" isn't a bad movie. It's not a good one, either. The best way I can think to put it is that it's consistent and competent. Copeland does a decent job with what he's been given, but what he's been given is a stock plot and character from a 1980s low-budget comedy. This is exactly the sort of movie that Mark Harmon might have made in 1988. One smart choice that the filmmakers made was to invest in some recognizable character actors. That sort of thing goes a long way when you're asking an audience to buy into a professional wrestler who's never made a film before as the centerpiece. Jamie Kennedy, Jessica Walter, Philip Baker Hall, Jennifer Esposito - these are all people that you have seen before in things. You might not know exactly what you've seen them in before, but a little familiarity goes a long way.
And "Bending the Rules" is consistent - it's consistently almost kind of funny. There are a few lines and scenes that are alright (I did laugh a few times throughout), and it's mostly devoid of the sort of embarrassing humor that you might expect from WWE. But also, nothing risked, nothing gained. Stock plot, stock characters, bizarre message. What's that message? I guess you'd have to say that it would be related to people needing to pull the stick out of their collective asses. Copeland's character has a loose relationship with the details of law enforcement, but generally heads in the right direction. Jamie Kennedy's character is a cross-the-t's, dot-the-i's kind of guy, and within the span of time covered by this film, his wife leaves him, and berates him once in public and again in front of his children, is passed over for a job promotion because nobody likes him, and is on the run from someone that he put in jail years ago. He's also tazed by police officers mad that he tried to prosecute their co-worker, and has a strained relationship with his family. Some of that is forgivable in service of comedy, but sending the message that trying to do the right thing in the right way leads to personal calamity and that everyone will hate you for even trying sounds like the devil on your shoulder talking, not a sound personal philosophy to adhere to.
My bottom line here is that if you're a wrestling fan, or an Edge fan, you're probably not going to hate "Bending the Rules," either. However, the title doesn't really match the performances - no one here goes out on a limb for anything. The entire production set it's goals so low that even though everyone involved hits their mark, it's like getting one-hundred percent right of sixty percent of the test. I mean, mission accomplished and everything, but that still averages out to a solid D. I would have appreciated more failures over the course of "Bending the Rules," simply because it would have meant that someone was trying to accomplish something a little beyond their grasp.
1.5 / 5 - Blu-Ray