“Unfinished Business packs nothing but an exhausting array of failed jokes.”
Unfinished Business is a landmark film for one reason and one reason only, and it’s the first directorial effort by Ken Scott that doesn’t have a plot or a title related to sperm. After directing both the Canadian film Starbuck and the American remake Delivery Man, Scott has set his sights on another subject that, unfortunately, gets bogged down by not only its dirty-minded tendencies but its directionless comedy and narrative as well. Unfinished Business is a miserably unfunny film, lumbering from one situation to the next in a stumblebum fashion, making ninety minutes out to be an absolutely laborious affair on all counts.
The film focuses on Daniel Trunkman (Vince Vaughn), who quits his job after his boss Chuck Portnoy (Sienna Miller) tries to make him accept a five percent pay deduction. Just before walking out, he proclaims to his former coworkers that he is working on starting his own business and that anyone who wants to work for a fairer, more honest company should follow him out the door. He’s followed by Timothy McWinters (Tom Wilkinson), an elderly man who was also just let go, and Mike Pancake (Dave Franco), a quirky, shy youngster who was interviewing for the business that same day. We fast-forward one year later, seeing the three as broke and clueless as when they started, with their only hope of achieving some income after two stagnant months is a trip to Europe to close the business deal they need in order to continue. Daniel keeps reiterating time and time again that the agreement is only a “handshake” away, but, as expected, and this goes without saying, a load of ridiculous bawdiness follows them overseas and they are left with their own wits and ridiculousness to try and make this deal work.
You may be asking yourself what business are these men in, what is their company about, and what does this insurmountable business deal consist of? You’re not alone, reader; I was asking the very same questions while watching the film. Writer Steve Conrad (the same man who penned The Pursuit of Happiness and The Promotion, which detailed something similar to this story in a more entertaining and empathetic way) dances around these ideas, with Daniel, at one point in the film, saying him and his two coworkers are in the business of selling “swarf,” or the stray metal shavings that turn up in mass amounts following the construction of a building, a bridge, or some other societal necessity. After that point is established, none the previous questions get answered. The three men talk about how revolutionary this business deal is if it goes through, but nobody takes the time to explain its effects, the monetary impact, what the three men have been doing for the past year while their business sinks like a rock, and so on.
Conrad engages in some of the laziest screen writing I’ve seen, not only in a narrative sense where nothing is explained or elaborated on, but in the sense that the film never manages to be funny. It lumbers through sight gags and attempts at humor that are so frequently dead-on-arrival I wanted to check the film for a pulse. The only performer on hand that seems to be trying to create some level of character is Dave Franco, an actor I’ve appreciated in his last few film roles as a goofy soul who can play both clueless but confident or clueless and intimidated very well. Here, he’s the latter, and he’s often fun when he’s responding so nervously to Daniel’s requests or must recite his full name (which isn’t funny, but the film keeps trying to assert that it is) in the middle of a meeting.
With that, Unfinished Business packs nothing but an exhausting array of failed jokes and an empty plot that its caricatures certainly can’t rebound and its writing/directing team sure can’t save once the cameras begin rolling. To the surprise of some, I’m sure, I defended the last two major raunchy comedies that have been released to theaters, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and The Wedding Ringer, respectively, crediting them for doing their job in not only making me laugh but packing in a little extra something to their formula. Unfinished Business is so broken and empty that it can’t pack anything extra into its story or formula because there’s already so little there. It works as a perfect juxtaposition to the characters’ company in the film, as it’s a trainwreck that has an audience and nothing more.