What Doesn't Kill You
December 12, 2008
"Hello, my name is Brian Goodman. You might remember me from my recurring role as 'Ryan the Other' from TV's Lost, While you may have enjoyed my work as a character actor or sometimes bit player, today I would like to discuss something more important...my feature directorial-writing debut, What Doesn't Kill You."
Similar to how past-his-prime Troy McClure would use his work to segue into his latest job in the Simpsons' universe, it seems fitting that as an actor that undoubtedly has that "Oh that guy" face and presence, Brian Goodman might also like for potential moviegoers to be able to place where they know him from.
For What Doesn't Kill You (formerly known as Real Men Cry), Goodman joined with Donnie Wahlberg and Paul T. Murray to write the screenplay of of two South Boston guys, Brian and Paulie, on the wrong side of the law, who are eventually arrested and sent to prison. Upon his release, Brian tries to get his life back on track when Paulie reenters the picture to drag him back into a familiar line of work.
As of late, it seems that the crime drama genre has experienced a resurgence, with The Departed as its pinnacle of achievement. It's unclear whether or not this one will match that acclaim but it does have a few checks in its 'plus' column. First, the film has a strong cast of actors, who while not box office draws are reliable performers. As Brian, the former criminal attempting to rehabiliate himself, Mark Ruffalo could tap into the same emotional depths he did for 2000's You Can Count on Me. As his former partner and eventual foil, Ethan Hawke gets to possibly move into the type of roles he typically acts opposite to, like last year's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Training Day's Denzel Washington. The cast also includes Amanda Peet and co writer Donnie Wahlberg, who is typically underrated. Band of Brothers and the short-lived Boomtown are prime exhibits of what he can do but his work in the Saw films should be ignored.
Also noteworthy is the fact that most of these players have worked together on at least one other picture. For instance, Goodman, Wahlberg and Peet all starred in 1998's Southie and Ruffalo and Goodman both appeared in a pair of 2001 films, Blow and The Last Castle. Therefore, a solid rapport within the cast could only help the film.
The biggest question mark for this film is the people behind the camera and the script. This is Goodman's first outing as a director but he has appeared in bit parts in a couple of Spielberg films (Munich and Catch Me if You Can) and Ted Demme's Blow. If you consider his stint on Lost under the regular series director Jack Bender, Goodman has at least had some interaction with notable directors. The benefit of doubt could easily be granted.
The writing department is a bit more sketchy. Goodman has no writing credits to his name and neither does Wahlberg, unless you count that he wrote many New Kids songs and his brother's signature tune, Good Vibrations. Paul T. Murray has a handful of screenwriting credits but most if not all have been direct-to-video releases. As the saying goes, "write what you know," and this trio of writers seems to be doing just that. While they aren't reformed hardened criminals (as fas as I can tell), Wahlberg is a Boston native, so his familiarity with the setting will probably translate. It's not a huge leap to conclude that the main characters, Brian and Paulie, aren't at least somewhat based upon their namesakes, Brian Goodman and Paul Murray. Likely, they draw upon aspects of their own lives to flesh out the characters.
So if you can get past the rather cliched title, What Doesn't Kill You has the potential to be a nice addition to the crime drama genre. (Daron Aldridge/BOP)