Zach Galifianakis is armed and dangerously funny in this hilarious action-comedy inspired by an incredible but true story! David (Galifianakis) is an unassuming armored-truck driver who longs for adventure. Lured into the scheme of a lifetime by his beautiful work crush Kelly (Kristen Wiig) and her cohort Steve (Owen Wilson), David manages the impossible and makes off with $17 million in cash. But when his partners-in-crime keep the loot and set him up for a fall, David must dodge the authorities, evade a hitman (Jason Sudeikis) and find a way to take back what he rightfully stole!
It's rarely a good sign when a movie's release date is pushed back. Such a move can signify that the final product is simply not the movie that the studio set out to release. After a couple duds ('Gentlemen Broncos' and 'Don Verdean'), you might assume that the stifled year-plus delay of Jared Hess' latest comedy 'Masterminds' would be the result of another bad product – but you would be wrong. If that's your assumption, toss it out. It's true that 'Masterminds' was long-delayed, but the cause was distribution limbo from Relativity's bankrupcy - not bad product. In reality, 'Masterminds' is not only Hess' best comedy since 'Napoleon Dynamite,' but it's one of the funniest comedies I've seen in some time.
'Masterminds' is a wild and outrageous true story ensemble comedy. It's filled with the type of stuff that you simply can't make up. Zach Galifianakis plays the leading role of David Ghantt, a naïve and dim-witted guy who has recently become aware of the unhappiness and complacency of his life. With a needy, oddball fiancee (Kate McKinnon) controlling his every decision, he realizes that the only thing he drives in his life is the armored car for his day job – and that's not enough.
After being assigned to drive with Kelly (Kristen Wiig), a mildly flirty, funny and charming co-worker, David starts to fall for her. She's everything that his fiancee isn't. While Kelly is a good person, the people that she associates with aren't. In particular, there's Steve (Owen Wilson), an occasionally bright-minded master manipulator who has concocted a plan that will make everyone rich. That is, everyone but David. Steve plans to use Kelly to manipulate David into robbing his armored car facility and handing the money over to Steve's crew before "lying low" in Mexico for a while. In reality, since David is unaware of his identity, Steve will ultimately use David as the fall guy. With David being head-over-heels for Kelly, Steve knows that David would never rat out Kelly, who is the only person who knows Steve's true identity.
The first act of 'Masterminds' is all about the plan and the heist. Steve's plan is actually pretty solid, but there's no accounting for what dim wits can do. The second act is all about keeping a lid on the situation. While Steve's plan is great, Steve himself is quite a bit of a dingbat, so he's bound to make some mistakes of his own. Plus, there's no predicting what David will do. And the third act is all about self preservation.
'Masterminds' signifies an evolution in Hess' filmmaking style. It contains his hilarious trademark moments of randomness and subtle physical humor, but also infuses the currently popular dialog-driven comedy – some of which is certainly improvised – from its modern ensemble cast. Galifianakis, Wiig and Wilson are joined by excellent co-stars that bring many styles of laughs. Leslie Jones and Jon Daly play two straight FBI agents assigned to the track down the missing $17 million. Ken Marino lives next-door to New Wealth neighbors Steve and Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Ellis, 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia'). And Jason Sudeiki plays an unpredictable and tough-as-nails assassin. I have always enjoyed watching Sudeikis on-screen, but this is easily my favorite of his roles.
Watching 'Masterminds,' you'll frequently find yourself saying, "There's no way this part is true." Once again, you will be wrong. The most absurd and seemingly contrived parts are surprisingly some of the most accurate. Lits bits are made-up, which is expected, just for the sake of structuring a movie, but what you'll believe to be most unbelievable is absolutely true. Hess and company do a great job of making this story out to be as funny and ridiculous as it was, all the while entertaining on the same level as any classic comedy.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Fox has given 'Masterminds' a combo release that includes a Region A BD-50 and DVD, but not a Digital HD copy code. Both discs are housed in a blue Elite keepcase that comes with a glossy slip cover. The disc starts with an unskippable FBI warning, followed by skippable trailers for 'Why Him?,' 'Keeping Up with the Joneses' and 'Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.'
'Masterminds' hits Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that's much better than you'd expect from a shelved movie and a basically bare-bones Blu-ray release. It's sharp, chock full of fine features and explosive with color.
The only time that the video quality looks bad is during the opening sequence when YouTube videos play over the narration. With some of the video being old, the quality can be highly pixelated and riddled with artifacts. Fortunately, this is the only time that the video looks bad. The rest of the film is void of compression errors. Banding would normally appear in certain shots, but the sharpness doesn't allow them to pop up here. Artifacts, noise and bands are otherwise missing from this presentation.
'Masterminds' is basically set in two locations: North Carolina and Mexico. Both offer wide variety of colors, all of which pop with larger-than-life vibrancy. The contrast is slightly favored on the bright side, but nothing is blown out. The brightness is quite a bit stronger than most movies and aids in helping the finer details (textures, patterns, surface imperfections) appear clearly. Shot digitally, aside from a few oddly flat-looking moments, 'Masterminds' is digital cinema at its finest.
'Masterminds' is brought to life by a fantastic 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that makes great use of the entire sounds space. The front-and-center voice-over narration at the start of the movie is crystal clear. The quality of dialog never wains. Escalated bits never become distorted or blown out. The range is dynamic and never falters.
The music mix playfully uses all channels. The comedic score playfully tinkers around the entire room. When the story takes us to Mexico, the style jumps over to have more of a Latin feel. But the music really starts showing off when popular songs are played. The most notable is an AC/DC track. Blasting from each channel, it sounds fantastic. Although Enya isn't exactly my cup of tea, her dreamland music flows through the space very well.
I typically expect pedestrian effects mixing from little comedies, but the effects in 'Masterminds' certainly excel above most. From the first time we're riding along inside the armored truck, it's obvious that there will be layers upon layers of effects. As the truck cruises down a small country road, the sound of rickety objects rattling around emits uniquely from each speaker. Moments later, a scene at a shooting range features gunfire that seamlessly echoes around the room. Settings are brought to life by the most subtle environmental effects. Outdoor settings feature more bird chirping than I've ever heard in a sound mix before. A diner setting features an orchestra of backgound fork-and-knife clanking sounds. Combined with all other elements, this mix is a step above most.
Jared Hess was once a big up-and-coming indie comedy filmmaker that had many eyes watching where his career would take him. His last two pictures failed to strike a chord with critics and moviegoers alike. Had 'Masterminds' received the proper studio backing, especially in terms of promotion, I'm certain that it would have been a well-revered comedy that would have quickly restored faith in his potential. Due to Relativity's bankrupcy, getting the word out there rest solely in our hands. Now that it has received a strong Blu-ray that's only lacking in the way of special features, it's time to get the word out there. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend checking it out and sharing it with every comedy-lover that you know.