Film review by Nathanial Eker
Lemonheads takes a rather tertiary dive into drug culture in outer Washington and offers neither compelling insight nor entertainment. Though some scenes are well-crafted, the directionless plot and melodramatic dialogue make for a drab film that feels like a pale impression of your average Tarantino film, with a little David Lynch and Breaking Bad sprinkled in. It's a brash, angry film defined by dreary monologues and expletive exclamations without much substance.
Leo (George Jonson) and his cousin Louis are heroin addicts in desperate need of a fix. Through an encounter with Irish dealer Neal, the two find themselves tasked with assassinating an up-and-coming drug lord/pimp named Skinner. What follows is murder, multiple odious monologues, and more f-bombs than you could possibly count— all on Christmas Eve, no less.
Despite boasting three directors, Lemonheads lacks solid direction. It's a shame, as the film starts off fairly compelling. However, poor characterisation and a rushed third act do irreconcilable damage to the narrative, and its attempt at a powerful commentary during the final few seconds falls flat. The tale of a drug addict's utter desperation is nothing new, but the tactless and simplistic manner in which the script tackles Leo and Louis' problems is staggeringly ineffective. It's a shame because such a message has potential for some compelling drama, but the script just doesn't hit the mark. It's far too preoccupied with writing another expletive-ridden rant about graphic violence to consider the repercussions of its character's actions.
The performances are largely pantomimic and hyperbolic. Lead George Jonson offers a reasonable portrayal of a heroin addict at rock bottom, but his strange intonation makes the script's clumsiness all the more noticeable. Equally, his Christopher Walken - esque swagger paired with an odd vocal style ensures he's memorable, though not necessarily for the right reasons. However, Jonson does manage to craft occasional chemistry with cousin Louis (Samuel Wyatt); the film's only genuine relationship. The two evoke a sense of care for one another, leading to rare bursts of bizarre sweetness.
Regrettably, this good work is immediately undercut by the entire casts' obsession with screaming. Yes, they're addicts and criminals. But there is simply no reason to make every scene so aggressive and irate. Regular conversations will explode into geyzers of unwarranted fury at every turn, and by the film's end, it's a miracle there's any scenery left to chew.
Equally problematic is the undercurrent of misogynism that runs throughout the narrative. There are five female characters in Lemonheads. Four are cultish sex workers with no lines, while the fifth is an angelic vision of Louis' "angel". She also has no lines. Women are regularly treated as objects while homosexuality is equally maligned by the film's many bigoted players. It'd be less distracting had the characters' problematic behaviours played into a wider commentary, but all it amounts to is another reason not to like anybody.
Frustratingly, the film's cinematography, music, and set design are all excellent. The use of contemporary music, in particular, offers a strange sense of nostalgia, tapping into Leo's lost soul more effectively than the script ever could. Equally, the dingy colour palette and close camera work create a delightfully grim mise-en-scene that serves as a perfect backdrop to a story of murder, drugs, and exploitation. Had the script and performances not been so flawed, there could've been a simple, yet gorgeous film here.
Ultimately, however, there's no making up for the film's pretentious dialogue, hammy acting, and overly aggressive tone. Watching it is similar to playing an incredibly violent video game; five semi-entertaining moments of anarchy and naughtiness before the novelty soon wears off.
Lemonheads is one drug you won't soon become addicted to.