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the comeback trail


director: George Gallo (the poison rose)
starring: robert de niro, zach braff, morgan freeman and tommy lee jones


REVIEWER: lyall carter

Indebted to the mob, two movie producers try to save themselves by setting up an aging actor for an insurance scam.

When the trailer for The Comeback Trail popped into my radar I thought that this was gonna be the kinda movie where they put a couple of famous faces on the poster but in reality they are barely in the movie. But this is a bonafide De Niro, Lee Jones and Freeman movie. And it's damn entertaining, funny and disarming in equal measure. 


In debt to the mob and in need of a new money making scheme to save his skin, greedy grind-house film producer, Max Barber, decides to produce a dangerous new film all for the sake of killing his lead actor in a stunt so he can rake in the insurance money. But when he casts Duke Montana an aging, washed up movie star as the lead, Max never expects the depressed old drunk to be revitalised by being in front of the camera again. Unable to kill Duke in a basic stunt, Max ups the stakes, putting Duke into ever more dangerous situations. And as Duke survives stunt after stunt, Max unwittingly starts making the best movie of his career.


Let’s get real for a moment. 2020 has been a bit of a dumsterfire of a year. Need a bit of entertaining and charming escapism with some great belly laughs? The Comeback Trail is that movie. Reminiscent of The Producer, the scheme that De Niro’s Barber cooks up is simple enough and just increases in absurdity and hilarity as Duke survives each attempt on his life.


The film never has a dull moment in its over one and a half hours run time and sweeps you up in the charm of it all. It also takes the time to explore Hollywood of yesteryear and the themes of age, stardom and the price of fame. 


This is one of De Niro’s most memorable turns in years, giving it his all in a ferociously passionate performance. And he’s absolutely hilarious in this too, giving us a larger than life character who, in lesser hands, could have descended into a mere caricature but in his brilliant hands we have a wondrous performance. 


The Comeback Trail is the perfect remedy for 2020. It's damn entertaining, funny and disarming in equal measure anchored by one of De Niro’s most memorable performances in years.


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