Harold Buttleman: Daredevil Stuntman Review

Harold Buttleman: Daredevil Stuntman is 2003 comedy about a small town tuxedo salesman who thinks he’s the next great daredevil stuntman. He’s not.

Getting a reissue and a re-scan from its original 35mm film print, Francis Stokes‘ 2003 Harold Buttleman: Daredevil Stuntman is coming back February 2nd, mostly likely due to the film’s star, the often underrated John Hawkes, whose career since has certainly earned him critical acclaim if not larger audience recognition. He was nominated for an Oscar in 2011 for Winter’s Bone and is currently getting praise for his small but significant role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriBack in 2003 though, he hadn’t made too many waves, was still a year away from his turn Deadwood, and was mostly a bit player in television and a few minor films. 

The story centers on the titular Harold (Hawkes), a tailor by trade, working in a small town tuxedo shop, but in his heart is a bonafide stunt man, or rather ‘professional risk taker’ as his hero Evel Knievel termed the work. Not quite on the same page as the famous daredevil, Harold is mostly a backyard enthusiast, taking to jumping off things and running his old car over ramps (barely a few inches off the ground). He believes himself to be a real American hero, with his best friend and sidekick Doug (Stephen Falk) filming it all on videotape. With high hopes of hitting the big time, or at least cable, they set about to blaze a trail, with Harold’s girlfriend Wendy (Anita Barone) doing her best to accept it all and his family sort of hoping it all goes away.

The very definition of easy-breezy, Harold Buttleman: Daredevil Stuntman is about as safe a family movie as one could get, even if themes of putting your life in jeopardy for fame are questionable. It’s all done in fun and hardly taken seriously, with Harold sort of safely delusional, though perhaps ‘safely’ isn’t quite the right word. We can rest assure than for certain, he isn’t going to really hurt himself, even when he leaps off a roof. This all is not new of course. Super Dave Osbourne (Bob Einstein) pretty much originated the hapless stuntman character in the 1970s, and more recently, you might have seen Andy Samberg‘s take on it with 2007’s Hot Rod, a film very similar to this, though a little more raunchy. Either way, there’s always laughs in store for people willing to take pratfalls, and honestly, Hawkes is pretty good at earning them.

Matter of fact, Hawkes is the whole show here, even with some good supporting turns, including a funny Karen Black and a cameo by Dan Castellaneta. The world a person like Harold Buttleman exists in must be populated by oddballs in order for any of it to be sustainable, and there’s no shortage of them here. This is a story of faith in one’s self, and while Harold has absolutely no skills as a daredevil and should distance himself from it as much as he can, no one really seems to either see it or have the wherewithal to tell him so. Of course, that’s half the charm, and admittedly, it does veer from the expected by the time it reaches its finale, avoiding some of the clichés the genre might suggest. This is a small film, one that got past most on its initial run but now, with its clean and high definition rescan, is a good time to give it look, especially to see how far Hawkes has come.

Harold Buttleman: Daredevil Stuntman Review

Movie description: HAROLD BUTTLEMAN: DAREDEVIL STUNTMAN IS 2003 COMEDY ABOUT A SMALL TOWN TUXEDO SALESMAN WHO THINKS HE'S THE NEXT GREAT DAREDEVIL STUNTMAN. HE'S NOT.

Director(s): Francis Stokes

Actor(s): John Hawkes, Anita Barone, Stephen Falk

Genre: Comedy

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