UNFINISHED BUSINESS. Vince Vaughan, Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco, Nick Frost, Sienna Miller. Directed by Ken Scott. 91 minutes.Rated MA15+ (Strong nudity, sexual references and coarse language).
‘Unfinished Business’ can be best summed by examining its three protagonists – you like them a lot and you want them to succeed, but their shortcomings suggest they’re just not cut out for the business they’re in.
Dan (Vince Vaughan) quits his job at a sales company after a pay cut, vowing to his former boss Chuck (Sienna Miller) that he will start his own competing firm, and invites anyone overhearing their row to join him. Older employee Tim (Tom Wilkinson) – freshly ‘let go’ after reaching the retirement age – and young inexperienced Mike (Dave Franco) – leaving the office after a failed interview – are the only takers on his offer. Together, the trio form a small business and set out as minnows to take on the bigger fish.
One year later, and they’re in a bad way – almost insolvent, unpaid for several jobs and only one prospect on the horizon. Luckily, said prospect comes through and the colleagues head to Portland for a business handshake to close the deal. When Chuck appears in Portland too for the same deal, Dan and Co. realise their deal is on the rocks, and the gang have to head to Berlin to convince the head honcho of their deal’s counterparty to choose their offer over Chuck’s. With a G8 Summit, Oktoberfest, Europe’s largest homosexual fetish festival and the Berlin Marathon all in town, their trip will go any way but smoothly.
The cast is bizarrely good considering how weak the material they are given is. Vince Vaughan often seems to play himself in his comedies, but his underdog shtick is reliable enough. Tom Wilkinson isn’t known for comedies but can more than hold his own, and Dave Franco is one of the new generation of comedic actors’ bright stars (his wonderfully monikered Mike Pancake is so awkward on screen it’s admittedly a guilty pleasure). The supporting players Sienna Miller, Nick Frost and James Marsden are also usually reliable. However, as a group they fall short somehow, no one delivering close to their best work, as though they’re embarrassed to be delivering the script their given. Screenwriter Steve Conrad has cooked up a fertile scenario for a comedy – desperately competing characters plus a touch of culture shock – yet it simply isn’t funny enough. Unlike most American comedies today, it comes across as largely scripted, straying from the improvisational path its more successful peers follow. Good scripted comedy is wonderful, but this film does not earn such a label. There are good moments, and the screening I attended acknowledged several laugh out loud gags, but they are rare. A decent percentage of them are also pretty tasteless, but I suppose this is par for the course.
I very much wanted to like the film, largely due to a cast who are capable of much better. Sadly I couldn’t – it’s too unfocused and doesn’t quite deliver what one expects from a comedy. Director Ken Scott might have gone back to the storyboard on this one, loosened up a little, worked out better performances, and it could have been a hit. In the form released to cinemas however, ‘Unfinished Business’ feels aptly named, and this is no complement.
Callum Ryan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out March 6.
20th Century Fox.