The tagline for Aftermath proclaims “A dark comedy about one man’s overreaction!”.

No, it’s not.

It’s not a dark comedy, although there are some darkly funny parts to it. It’s not about “one man’s overreaction”. Well, probably not. I guess it depends on who you think One Man is. The implication is that it’s Anthony Michael Hall but—well, let me describe the story, and you decide.

Tom (Hall) is a successful contractor/douchebag living the good life with his hot wife Rebecca (Elizabeth Rohm, “Law & Order”) when his foreman, Matt (Jamie Harrold, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”), who is as unhappy with his life (with less hot wife, Lily Rabe, “American Horror Story”, “Law & Order”, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) as Tom is happy with his, has trouble with one of his crew, the menacingly fat Chris Penn (“Law & Order: Criminal Intent”).

I don’t remember what Penn’s character name is, and he’s not listed in the IMDB credits. He died during the shooting of this film, and there were rumors that his scenes were taken out of this film—rumors that seem impossible given that he is the film’s antagonist. (I actually can’t find the character name anywhere!)

One thing leads to another and Penn ends up assaulting Matt in front of Tom one Friday afternoon. Penn has the idea that he’s going to be Tom’s #1 guy if he can dispatch Matt, and we get the idea he’s not too particular about the definition of “dispatch”.

Tom, of course, thinks this is nuts and fires Penn. As Penn tells his pal, Eric (Frank Whaley, “Law & Order”, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”), it’ll all be cool Monday morning. Keep in mind that Penn is not meant to be insane, but presumably part of a culture where felonious assault is just a thing, you know?

It turns out not to be cool Monday, especially given that Matt has vanished.

Of course, Tom tells the cops about it when they ask. But this really pisses Penn off. And Eric, who’s thinking they should go back to their criminaling ways. But Penn wants to go legit, even if that means killing people.

OK, I may have that muddled. What’s clear is that Penn is a menace, and responds to things with extreme violence, so maybe he’s the guy in the movie tagline who’s over-reacting.

Tom has a few avenues open to him: The cops are curiously unhelpful. To the point where I began to think some sort of Witness Relocation Program issue was at stake. Tom also has a buddy (Leo Burmeister, “Law and Order”) who happens to be a sheriff and who’s investigating stuff for him.

The Sheriff (that’s his name in the credits) tips Tom off to minor thug, King (Tony Danza, “Who’s The Boss: Criminal Intent Unit”) so he can get some “home protection” and the enterprising King sees an opportunity to get some cash by menacing Penn. So he and his mook Darrell (Federico Castellucio, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”) go to give a warning to Penn, who easily outweighs both of them put together.

This ultimately works out poorly for all, including lesser, wheelchair bound mook, Clark (Clark Middleton, “Law & Order”, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”.) Also Rebecca. And Tom. And Penn.

Actually, everyone.

You have to feel bad for writer/director Thomas Farone, who seems like he had a good story and a stylish approach to telling it, but when your antagonist dies midway through the shoot, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Then, when you’re trying to fix things, another actor dies (Leo Burmeister), you can hardly be blamed for trying for “baffling” over…well, I’m not even sure what your options are at that point.

Penn makes a sudden exit from the film. The Sheriff ends up vanishing. We never do find out what happened to Matt, though I thought there was an implication that maybe his wife killed him. Matt and his wife have a daughter, apparently, though she never appears past the opening sequence. Frank Whaley turns out to be tougher than Anthony Michael Hall, which is some sort of weird Brat Pack Nerd Showdown gone wrong.

I just don’t know.

We didn’t hate it. It was disappointing and frustrating, and it’s entirely possible if it had been finished we’d have absolutely hated it. It opens with the end, which turns out to be the actual end of the story, not the pre-climactic moment where things turn around, so you end up feeling like you’ve been played a bit.

Tom’s self-description is pretty awful, but he never lives up to it in the actual movie: He busts some chops—which a contractor pretty much has to do—but it’s clear he’s living the good life because he’s worked hard. He’s quite taken with himself, but his actions in the film are clearly more centered around protecting his pregnant wife then, say, ego, obsession or stubbornness (cf. the Kevin Bacon/James Wan revenge flick Death Sentence).

It’s almost an anti-revenge flick, really: Where you sort of expect from the title and the tagline that this is going to be about taking revenge, what you have is a guy who’s desperately trying to stop bad things before they happen.

The Boy was particularly frustrated by the sense of something really quality trying to get out of the muddle. Though he didn’t get the whole comic-book thing. (The scene transitions are done as though you’re reading panels in a comic book. Which also seems to peter out at points.)

The funny thing is that we were trying to figure out when the movie took place. There are no cell phones at first—they turn up about 30-40 minutes into it, and they’re not smart phones. Also the monitors are all fat CRTs. I guessed early 2000s, but it turns out this wasn’t an attempt to make a period piece, it’s just that the film was mostly shot in 2005!

An oddity. But hard to recommend.

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