Reality TV is a narcissistic cesspool, the lowest-common-denominator in entertainment and a harbinger of humanity’s eventual descent into a hellish nightmare from which we will never escape. Okay, maybe that last part is a bit hyperbolic, but I’m trying to make sure you understand how much I loathe the genre. Sure, there are a handful of worthwhile examples, but for every Face Off there are a half-dozen Jersey Shores and Honey Boo Boos clogging up the cable guide. We are confronted daily with a mountain of vapid, sexist, brain-dead programming and honestly I was starting to lose all hope. Enter Wet and Reckless, the brainchild of writer/director/editor/actor Jason Trost. (see our interview here)
There have been many efforts to satirize reality TV, some more effective than others, but I don’t know that there has ever been anything as blunt, ballsy and downright gonzo as Wet and Reckless. The film’s main characters are cutting parodies of the prevailing reality show stereotypes. Let me introduce you:
Toby “Dollars” (Lucas Till)– a fedora-clad spoiled and self-absorbed former child model who has achieved a second chance at celebrity thanks to his appearance on numerous reality shows. His narcissism is only outmatched by his ability to emotionally meltdown into crybaby mode if he doesn’t get his way.
The Lobo (Jason Trost) – a tribal-tatted sex-obsessed former Marine whose reality stardom began with a fitness-fad infomercial. The Lobo is a ladykiller whose signature move, “The Wolf Bite,” marks his prey for sexual conquest.
Sonya “Turbo” (Scout Taylor-Compton) – a wholesome good girl who is new to the gang. Naïve and guileless, her recently awakened appetite for debauchery may exceed that of even her two seasoned male peers.
Dollars and The Lobo are part of an ongoing reality series called Pussy Police, or PPD for short. In a direct swipe at The Jersey Shore, Pussy Police is essentially a chronicle of the party lifestyle, showcasing meaningless and depraved sexual activity and hardcore abuse of drugs and alcohol, glorified through the lens of reality TV. As the film picks up with these two, Dollars and The Lobo are set to begin filming the newest season of PPD, which takes things international via a trip to Thailand. At the last minute, they are surprised by the addition of another cast member, Sonya, whose wide-eyed innocence stands in stark contrast to the jaded perversion of her masculine cohorts.
It’s not long before the fellas are taking swipes at Sonya, and thanks to brilliant performances by (and chemistry between) Till and Trost we are able to see right through the veil of macho misogyny to the crippling insecurities that motivate their despicable behavior. And this remains one of the more brilliant aspects of the film: As we become further acquainted with Dollars and The Lobo we never lose sight of the flaws for which they are overcompensating. This allows the two to wreak havoc with the stereotypes/archetypes. The more amplified and extreme the behavior, the more devastating the commentary on not only the “stars” themselves, but on the reality programs that exploit this for profit and the audience that accepts and promotes this kind of behavior.
But lest I lead you to believe that Wet and Reckless is all high-minded meta-commentary on reality programming, I should stop to say that this film is first and foremost a comedy, and a brilliant one at that. Every moment is played for laughs, and as ridiculous as these characters may seem, the performances are utterly straightforward and deadpan. There is no breaking character, no direct wink and nod to the audience. If you’re familiar with Trost’s earlier film The FP, you may already have a sense for how effective this approach is in delivering the laughs. The fact that some of these lines could even be spoken with a straight face is astounding, yet that’s what makes this all work.
You see, Wet and Reckless is not a big-budget action comedy or blockbuster adventure film. It’s a micro-budget nugget of guerrilla filmmaking that succeeds on the strengths of its performances and the wit and incisiveness of its writing and editing. What it lacks in special effects and explosions, it more than makes up for in ludicrous caricature and inventiveness. We see this as the characters arrive in Thailand and after a brief jag of hard partying, learn suddenly that they have been stranded on the other side of the globe by their producer with the intention of forcing them to break contract to make way for new blood on their reality show.
They recoup from this crippling blow to their egos by hatching a plan to get back to the States in time to honor their contracts and to keep the cameras rolling and the fame and validation pouring in. This is where things get damn near nonsensical, as The Lobo produces a treasure map inherited from his father, who had previously been stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. The map leads to yet another map, which in turn leads to a cache of rubies the characters hope to acquire and sell to fund their escape from Thailand. If this all sounds a bit flimsy, bear with it. There are many layers to be peeled back here, and fresh angles to be worked. From homage to Indiana Jones and espionage film to buddy-cop banter and a classic love-triangle, it all gets chucked into the blender and turned on high. This leads to a third act that is phenomenally twisted, coiling back upon itself like some sort of absurd Ouroboros.
All of this is delivered via the filter of the show’s mock reality program. Cutaways to green-screen “confessional” asides from the characters are dispersed throughout the proceedings, graphic overlays pop up, occasional bits of dialogue are subtitled giving it all the familiar veneer of reality TV we’ve become accustomed to. The soundtrack is perfectly synced as well, delivering clichéd repetitive beats and goofy sound effects (sad foghorn, record scratch, police siren) to punctuate the proceedings. It’s all shot on HD hand-cam, again engaging the reality TV “we’re just following them around with a camera” trope. There are several moments which allow the ambient beauty of Thailand to shine through, and much of what is captured in terms of the nightlife, the landscape and wildlife is absolutely stunning.
Wet and Reckless is a savage slice of barbed satire, shot through with enough brains and humor to fill three Hollywood summer blockbusters, a raw testament to the power of independent filmmaking and the triumph of concept over b
udget. It also made me laugh so hard that I shit my pants. (There was some mild food poisoning involved, but nonetheless….)
Wet and Reckless is available now on Vimeo On Demand:
You can check out the trailer here:
And watch the first seven minutes of the film here:
At some point in the future he will likely appear on one of those shows that details how a person's addiction to purchasing and consuming media has ruined their life. Until then, his obsessions include sci-fi, horror and cartoons.
He can be found tweeting acerbically at @GentlemanSin.