It Takes Three

★½

Admission: I agreed to review the latest spin on “Cyrano de Bergerac” entitled “It Takes Three” (now available on VOD) because I incorrectly thought it was directed by my Letterboxd friend Scott Coffey (an actor professionally credited as Scott Alda Coffey – grandson on Alan Alda – who appeared in 2020’s “The Outpost”).

Turns out the movie was actually made by actor-turned-director Scott Coffey (probably best known for his work with John Hughes (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Some Kind of Wonderful”) and David Lynch (“Lost Highway,” “Mulholland Drive,” “Inland Empire” and Showtime’s 2017 “Twin Peaks” redux)). Coffey previously directed the 2005 Naomi Watts-starrer “Ellie Parker” and the Emma Roberts/Evan Peters/John Cusack vehicle “Adult World” (2013).

As it happens this false assumption wasn’t the only mistake I made because “It Takes Three” sorta sucks.

Due to his work with Hughes, it seems appropriate that Coffey opted to stage his riff on “Cyrano” at a high school. Unlike Hughes, Coffey and his screenwriters Logan Burdick and Blair Mastbaum don’t seem to know jack squat about teenagers, the way they talk or making them convincing characters.

“Moonrise Kingdom” vet Jared Gilman (who kinda resembles fellow Indianapolis critic Sam Watermeier) stars as Cy Berger (Get it?!!!). Cy’s a shy, nerdy kid who’s reeling after having his promposal to Cora (Katie Baker, “Yes Day”) rejected because she can’t imagine him performing cunnilingus on her. (Apparently, this is integral to her prom experience?)

Unfortunately for Cy the rejection was filmed, uploaded to YouTube and goes viral. He’s now not only unpopular but the butt of many of his classmates’ jokes. Cy’s only source of solace is his sole friend Kat Walker (Mikey Madison, “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”). The clip takes clicks away from jock Chris Newton (David Gridley, who previously appeared in the much better high school movie “The DUFF”), who’s gained a following through his faux karate videos and takes none too kindly to having attention (positive or not) diverted away from himself.

Enter Roxy (Aurora Perrineau of Jason Blum productions “Jem and the Holograms” and “Truth or Dare” and daughter of actor Harold, whom y’all might remember as Mercutio from Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” and TV shows “Oz” and “Lost”), the artistic, feminist new student at school. Chris takes an immediate liking to Roxy, but his dunderheaded machismo bullshit in the parlance of Shania Twain don’t impress her much. Desperate, Chris hires Cy to take over his social media accounts to paint the portrait of a more sensitive soul. Cy buddies up to Roxy in the process and develops feelings for her as well.

The young actresses certainly fare better than their young actor counterparts. Admittedly, this probably has more to do with the writing as opposed to the performances. Madison is the clear standout of the bunch as her Kat is the most decent and likable character (despite inexplicably digging Cy), but it’s sorta weird to see her not falling through a glass door and into a pool face full of shards armed with a revolver before getting flamethrowered to death. Perrineau’s Roxy is a sharp cookie until Cy and Chris’ manipulations turn her into a complete and utter dummy. Gilman’s Cy is selfish, delusional and a shoddy friend – I found him hard to root for. Gridley’s Chris is like an unfunny version of Seann William Scott’s Stifler from the “American Pie” pictures.

“It Takes Three” finds its footing in the third act, but it’s too little too late. The collective indie cred of Coffey, Gilman and Madison had me excited to peep the picture, but the result feels stale as this has obviously sat on a shelf for a hot minute. (It has a copyright date of 2017 and there’s a prom banner that reads, “Class of 2018.”) As far as high school reimaginings of classics go, “10 Things I Hate About You” this is not. If you’re looking for a reinvention of “Cyrano” you’d be much better off revisiting the 1987 Fred Schepisi/Steve Martin collaboration “Roxanne.”

Yakuza Princess

★★★

You likely already know if a movie called “Yakuza Princess” (now available in select theaters and on VOD) is your bag or not. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but there’s enough “John Wick”-like neon lit slicings, dicings and decapitations to satisfy fans of the subgenre even if the gore has more computer-generated assistance than I’d prefer.

“Yakuza Princess” is based on the graphic novel “Samurai Shiro” by Brazilian artist Danilo Beyruth. It opens in shocking, attention-grabbing fashion with the Osaka, Japan-based massacre of the Kawa crime clan. Men, women and children are gunned down indiscriminately. The family’s sole survivor is a 1-year-old little girl named Akemi.

We flash forward 20 years to São Paulo where Akemi (singer-turned-actress MASUMI making her feature film debut) works a dead end job at a gift shop owned by Mrs. Tsugahara (Mariko Takai) and trains with her sensei Chiba (Toshiji Takeshima). A title card tells us that São Paulo boasts the largest Japanese community in the world. (I had to laugh at this because wouldn’t Japan be the largest Japanese community in the world?)

Elsewhere in São Paulo, Shiro (Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers – the gaijin’s presence and name are explained in the movie) awakens in a hospital bed. His body and face are covered with scars. He can’t remember how he got here or who he is. He’s essentially a gangland Jason Bourne.

In a sequence that plays like a far more graphic homage to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s introductions in “The Terminator” pictures, Meyers’ Shiro skulks around the hospital naked as a jaybird hanging brain like he’s Michael Fassbender in “Shame” (Irish Curse my foot!) before stealing a visitor’s clothes and retrieving the samurai sword with which he arrived.

The sword, which supposedly contains the souls of those felled by it, serves as a link between Shiro and Akemi. They begrudgingly join forces when ambitious gangster Kojiro (Eijiro Ozaki, “The Man in the High Castle”) discovers that rightful yakuza heiress Akemi is still alive and gets on the first plane from Osaka to São Paulo to bump her off. Also along for the ride is Kojiro’s rival Takeshi (Tsuyoshi Ihara of “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “13 Assassins”), but his intentions are hazy.

Performances vary greatly in “Yakuza Princess.” First-timer MASUMI is convincing in action but a complete void when playing any sort of emotion. Meyers’ character is a cipher by its very construction, but he has enough presence to pull it off. Ihara steals the movie like an unattended 8-year-old might a pack of Pokémon cards at a hobby shop. The dude just oozes effortless cool. No kidding, I’d be happy as a pig in shit simply watching Ihara smoke cigarettes for an hour and a half.

“Yakuza Princess” is co-written (alongside Kimi Lee, Tubaldini Shelling and Fernando Toste) and directed by Vicente Amorim, who’s probably best known for making the 2008 Viggo Mortensen movie “Good.” The flick starts and concludes strongly enough, but hits an unfortunate lull at its midpoint. It’s a cool-looking movie (cinematographer Gustavo Hadba is Co-MVP alongside Ihara) with a bountiful amount of bloody action that leaves itself wide open for a sequel (supposedly this is the first installment of a planned trilogy). If MASUMI gets more acting lessons I’m down to clown.