“My painful over-ambition began early.”
— Kyle Sullivan, as Himself in “Self-Fulfilling Idiocy 4”
Yes, I know, I don’t usually review mere Superhero films. But sometimes you have to make an exception.
Particularly when you’re the one making the rules.
So just shut up and pay attention.
Now I could just point out that The Guards Themselves takes place in a big city in what may be the near future, which is under the rule of a group of powerful oligarchs, and, yes, that does get us under the wire.
Heck, there may even be a few rivets on Messier’s helmet.
But the main reason we’re looking at this one is because of Door Monster.
Or White Lightning HQ as they were calling themselves back then.
Now for those of you who still haven’t heard of them, or somehow missed my earlier comments on my “Rivets” blog, Door Monster is an insanely creative group of young Texans who have made a number of incredible YouTube videos. Their work overflows with creativity and imagination, and while you can readily criticize them for not being as polished as the commercial “entertainment” products churned out by the modern film industry (for vastly more money), they have produced hundreds of short skits over the last few years which are consistently funny and intelligent.
And it’s strange that all those professionals are rarely as funny as a bunch of twenty-somethings who have to beg for money on Patreon.
At the heart of this group is Kyle Sullivan, a multi-talented young writer/director and frequent star who has been making these videos since 2008.
He had to make a film for his Senior year project at the Arts school he attended. While most students made something short and fairly simple which they could use as a calling card for their professional careers, Kyle wasn’t satisfied with that and made an entire feature film with forty extras, digital effects and even stunts and action.
After all, Kyle never did anything the easy way. You can’t become a quirky internet sensation that way.
And you definitely can’t make the kinds of films you want that way, either.
Now, in this City (possibly in the near future. Yes, yes, we covered that already) there is a group of second-string superheroes calling themselves “The Anarchists.” They are fighting the Oligarchs (although it is pretty much all they can do to make themselves a nuisance), while a few costumed free-lance superheroes, the Crime Fighters, try to stop them.
And perhaps the most inept of the Anarchists is Noam, aka Master Fusion (Kyle Sullivan, naturally), who has a satchel he lugs around with him all the time containing the super battery which will make him a powerful superhero.
If he can ever get it to work properly.
(Just don’t call it his Magic Bag).
He usually works with his friend Scott (Ian Conn, who also writes and plays a major part in Door Monster, where he serves as director and editor on many of their sketches), aka Big Fist, a foppish guy with boxing gloves, who can usually take anyone down with a few deftly placed punches.
If he doesn’t scratch his gloves, that is.
The two, however, have a hard time going about their supposedly superheroic work because they are personally plagued by two of the Crimefighters: Mr. Justice, a member of the Adam West school of superheroism and possessor of the most impressive chin in the city (J.P. De Ovando, Door Monster’s resident musical genius); and his sidekick, Spectacle, who bullied Noam all through school.
What the Anarchists don’t realize, though, is that one of the Oligarchs, Meyer, is planning to seize control of the whole city and freeze out the other Oligarchs. He has virtually taken over the police with the help of his private security company, and in a huge raid, has captured the entire Anarchists organization.
Well, except Noam, who’s late as usual, and a handful of equally inept others — Scott; Ritchie, aka The Pyromaniac (Door Monster regular Jefferey Neely), who is far too fond of burning things; Lincoln, their moneyman, who can conjure pennies out of thin air; and the one who was so dangerous that the Anarchists themselves had locked him up, the faceless, black-clad, gun-toting Messier (the kind of character who makes Rorschach in Watchmen look like a gun-hating pacifist).
Now they must somehow find a way to free the others from Meyers’ secret prison while somehow escaping arrest themselves.
And hopefully get someone else more competent to take over from them…
Watching The Guards Themselves, one never gets the impression that this is a school project: the cinematography and sound are good enough that we don’t notice them, the editing is not jarring or showy, and the acting is as good as you’d expect from your typical TV show.
But, as we’d expect from Kyle and his collection of friends and family, this is an entertaining and often suspenseful film which is light-hearted and humorous without diminishing the threats his inept heroes face. Kyle has a knack for putting his actors into roles which suit their particular eccentricities, whether Jefferey’s little stare, or J.P.’s smug little smile, or Kyle’s own somewhat apologetic demeanor.
There’s a beautifully staged version of a classic gag which yields an absurd result without destroying the reality of the story, and, I’ll admit, I have to give Kyle a “thumb’s up” for avoiding one classic movie cliché when Noem gets knocked down yet again at the end.
And without a clinch.
I’ll confess that I was a little surprised to see one of Door Monster’s most talented performers, Ethan Gelinas, only appears as an extra (and can be spotted among the Anarchists if you look hard enough). But perhaps it was his knack for making appeals for money that have made him one of the most visible members of the group (or perhaps his willingness to show up at the last minute and play a part without ever seeing the script. You never know).
Kyle is a classic perfectionist, the kind of guy who decides at 11:00 P.M. the night before to completely rewrite the script he’s planning to shoot the next day, and it definitely shows: after all, he spent over two years turning his footage into a real feature film.
And the results are definitely impressive.
Kyle isn’t about to rest on his laurels, and continues to create new videos while trying to tackle other, more ambitious projects (like their pilot for Skyvault) in his “spare” time.
And even after six, ambitious years of making skits and sketches, his work is still funny, still creative, and still coming out on a regular schedule.
And that’s something few Youtubers can say.
So check out The Guards Themselves — you can still watch it on Youtube — or go wild and rent or buy it from Amazon in HD.
You won’t regret it.