Madness in the Method, 2019.
Directed by Jason Mewes.
Starring Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Teri Hatcher, Vinnie Jones, Danny Trejo, Stan Lee, Gina Carano, Dean Cain and Casper Van Dien.
Jason Mewes, attempting method acting in order to gain more respect for himself in Hollywood, slowly descends into madness.
That Jason Mewes, best known for starring as sex-crazed stoner Jay in Kevin Smith’s Askewniverse movies, would ever direct his own feature, let alone one that would play host to Stan Lee’s final ever cameo appearance, is practically impossible to fathom. And yet, here it is.
Anyone with any awareness of Mewes’ fraught personal life won’t be surprised to learn that his directorial debut is appropriately rough-hewn, a quasi-autobiographical docu-horror in which Mewes plays a not-so-fictional version of himself desperately trying to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor. His quest ends up having grisly consequences, as Jay ends up with blood on his hands while plotting to win the lead part in an Oscar hopeful to be directed by Clerks alum Brian O’Halloran.
And while Mewes’ doesn’t manage to shape his scatter-brained ideas into a fully coherent whole, Madness in the Method is a surprising film for several reasons. Most of all, despite the dialogue slotting effortlessly into the View Askew pantheon, it was in fact written by neither Smith nor Mewes, but Brit newcomer Chris Anastasi, his relation to the two unknown.
But it’s nevertheless abundantly clear that this is a deeply personal film for Mewes, who while presenting a fundamentally ridiculous central scenario involving all manner of accidental death, clearly wants to be seen as more than merely Smith’s drug-hoofing sidekick (the real Mewes being nine years sober, after all).
Unexpectedly, Mewes proves himself a solid dramatic actor here, for though much of the film is centered around skeevy banter and absurd caper sequences, the quieter moments where Mewes riffs on his own legacy and his evident desire to do more with his life’s work are genuinely quite captivating.
Like many actors, Mewes has inherited a grizzled grit as he enters middle age, allowing a weathered and introspective look at the man that, in its best moments, doesn’t feel a million miles away from Jean Claude Van-Damme’s brilliant self-essay JCVD. Yet perhaps for fear of alienating the core demo, Mewes’ film for the most part skews aggressively broad, and it’s here where he becomes unstuck both as director and storyteller.
Though there’s some amusing banter between Mewes and Smith in the early going – rife with Jay and Silent Bob references, of course – and they share a strong confrontation in the third act, the light horror elements feel half-baked and unsure of themselves. It’s as though Mewes wasn’t quite sure how to reconcile the flashes of brutal violence with the inherent silliness of the premise – and that’s not to ignore the groan-worthy, ill-advised gay panic jokes that abound later on.
There are also some undeniably cornball moments which reveal the limitations of both Mewes’ filmmaking and the budget; various low-fi news segments aren’t much better-crafted than your average bedroom-produced YouTube skit, and the project is just generally visually remarkable, sewing scenes together with what is clearly generic stock imagery, while many scenes throughout the film boast a garish amount of visual noise.
What often keeps Mewes’ film afloat throughout, however, is the sheer abundance of cameos, both from actors well-acquainted with Smith and not. Many of Smith’s pals are along for the ride here, including Brian O’Halloran, Stan Lee and Smith’s own daughter Harley Quinn, while Mewes has also roped in the likes of Vinnie Jones, Gina Carano, David Dastmalchian, Danny Trejo, Casper Van Dien and even The New Adventures of Superman alums Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher.
If much of the interest will be directed towards a cameo from the surprisingly spry Lee, it’s Hatcher who shines among the revolving door roles, swearing like a sailor and loving every second as Mewes’ exercise-obsessed agent.
But the novel appeal of these cameos can only do so much, and despite a pretty hilarious wish fulfilment ending for Mewes’ story, much of these 99 minutes only pass for watchable-ish, even if it does work as a convincing calling card for Mewes’ serious-minded chops.
Shamelessly self-indulgent film-as-therapy for director-star Jason Mewes, Madness in the Method will fitfully entertain Askewniverse fans, though it’s ultimately too scattershot to consistently satisfy. Overall, it’s tough not to feel that it would’ve been far more effective as a short film.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.