The Comeback Trail
Hollywood heavyweights Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman share the screen together should have been a recipe for success. However, the star power and talent from these legends is unable to save Sky original The Comeback Trail from its lazy comedy and uninspired script.
The premise sees De Niro cast as ageing grindhouse producer Max Barber, who runs a failing production company with his nephew (Zach Braff). After their latest endeavour (an exploitation flick about killer nuns) fails to make any money, Barber finds himself in trouble with his criminal investor (Freeman). In a desperate bid to save himself, he hatches a scheme to produce a new film purely to kill his leading man (Jones), a washed-up and depressed Western star, and cash in on the insurance money.
The concept is simple enough, but screenwriters Josh Posner and George Gallo (who also directs the feature) waste a lot of time with needless legwork before the main plot kicks in. And when the murderous scheme is underway it amounts to little more than a handful of hammy sequences in which the veteran actor narrowly avoids traps that would make Wile E Coyote shake his head in disapproval at the sheer dumb luck. De Niro and the rest of the cast do their utmost to make the comedy work, with Braff and Jones being particular highlights. Despite the cast’s best efforts, though, the script is unable to match the levels of charisma and personality injected by the actors.
The flick likewise misses the mark with its homage to cinema. Much like other features set in the movie business, Gallo’s project attempts to romanticise the magic of the art form. Braff’s wide-eyed excitement at having the chance to project the dailies at an old drive-in, alongside the childlike excitement he expresses each time he sets foot on a movie set, are the only successful depictions of a cinephile’s unadulterated pleasure. The constant naming of classic films and a score that’s a pale imitation of Morricone and Herrmann, however, come across as forced in comparison.
The Comeback Trail fails as both a comedy and Hollywood love letter, despite the best efforts from an all-star cast. Although viewers don’t get to see any of it, Barber’s fictitious nun slasher would have made for a considerably better watch.
The Comeback Trail is released on Sky on 19th June 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Comeback Trail here: