Review: Big Gold Brick Marks a Bizarre Filmmaking Debut, from its Questionable Plot to Odd Casting

The feature debut from writer/director Brian Petsos is not a good movie; let’s just get that out in the open right away. But there are enough bizarre and questionable choices made in its construction that it’s not entirely dismissible. (Which is not to say you should feel bad if dismissing it is exactly what you end up doing.) Big Gold Brick is yet another tale of a tortured, misunderstood writer working on what will likely be the book that makes him famous, allowing him to enter into a life of pomposity with some amount of clout.

Emory Cohen plays Samuel, the writer in question, who comes from wealth but continually disappoints his father as he struggles to create anything of value beyond the occasional short story. When he’s thinking of ending it all, he is hit by Floyd (Andy Garcia), a distracted driver who immediately takes the young man to the hospital and sits with him for days until he knows that Samuel will be alright. Samuel did sustain a brain injury, making him temporarily quirkier and more unpleasant than he already was. When the clearly well-to-do Floyd discovers Samuel’s passion as a writer, he enlists him to write his biography, detailing his time working for the government in secret. But in the process of Floyd telling Samuel his life story, the two bond like father and son, with Floyd feeling even more protective of his new ward.

Other characters drift in and out of this circle of two, including Floyd’s current wife Jacqueline (Megan Fox); his daughter Lily (Lucy Hale), on whom Samuel acquires a big crush; and later, we meet a criminal kingpin (Oscar Isaac, in a less than memorable appearance) to whom Floyd owes money. Big Gold Brick likely fancies itself a dark comedy of the highest order, but to make that work, the film would have to be amusing at times. The movie definitely sees itself as quirky, possibly even edgy, but having a lead character suffer from mental illness brought on by the accident brings the proceedings from oddball to downright tragic (and frequently annoying). But no matter what his mental state might be after the accident, the Samuel character is insufferable and tortured long before that happens.

When Floyd’s true nature and story are revealed, Big Gold Brick takes a hard left turn into what passes for the criminal underworld of Isaac’s character and later a bank heist that manages to get botched—neither of which feel authentic or remotely interesting. But the movie’s biggest sin is overstaying its welcome by running torturously beyond two hours and making sure we feel every laborious minute of it by including extemporaneous side plots and moments that neither carry the plot anywhere nor allow any of the characters to grow. Garcia plays the most tolerable character in the film, but it’s not difficult to run out of patience with him as well. It’s not for lack of trying or lack of vision, but Big Gold Brick fails to generate much steam either as a personality profile or a heightened, disturbing comedy.

The film is in a limited theatrical run and available via VOD.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

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