“Have you ever seen Brown Bunny?” As writer/director Chester Tam’s debut TAKE THE 10 opens with an extended blowjob conversation, you might think you’ve got this film pegged. Yet as a gunshot breaks the humour of the opening scene, we learn to expect a few surprises in this leisurely paced caper comedy.
The non-linear setup sees friends and grocery clerks Chester (Tony Revolori) and Chris (Josh Peck) each trying to get somewhere fast. While Chester’s dream of going to Brazil is kiboshed by his shifty boss Danny (Kevin Corrigan) demanding money, Chris gets wrapped up in spot of trouble with gangster Jay (played by Tam) and his beautiful girlfriend Sahara (Cleopatra Coleman) while trying to secure tickets to a hip hop festival.
With its keen sense of pop culture structured under chapter headings, the ‘answers first, questions later’ approach is reminiscent of a more lightweight version of Doug Liman’s Go (or Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction) by way of Clerks. Yet a direct comparison would do the endearing TAKE THE 10 a disservice, as its narrative series of random hurdles spirals Chester and Chris’ lives out of control in a script that’s free of any agenda. It takes the conventions of those early films but removes the frenetic intensity, a combination that adds a layer of charm.
Filled with a cast of recognisable comedians and character actors, Tam is mostly interested in the moment-to-moment madness he can inflict on his creations. A heavily accented Carlos Alazraqui kicks off a drive-by shooting subplot that leads to a confrontation with the always funny Fred Armisen, here possibly playing himself as an angry driver. Andy Samberg turns up as Chris’ brother, a layabout who lives with his parents because he’s “diabetic.” Tam, who you may have seen in numerous television roles, saves the best role for himself as the sexually conflicted gangster, complete with body tattoos and a custom grill.
Immersed in an energetic hip-hop soundtrack, from the likes of Jazz Cartier and Action Bronson, TAKE THE 10 defies the tropes of the form by steering away from the stoner clerk comedy model. Peppered with surprisingly (albeit random) emotional moments, Tam’s first feature promises much with this comedy of errors. Here’s hoping we’ll hear more of his voice in the future.