Who Killed Johnny (2013) – By Duane L. Martin

Melanie (Melanie Winiger) and Max (Max Loong) are two screenwriters from Switzerland who’ve moved to America, to a gorgeous house in the Hollywood Hills to write and make films. Must of the film revolves around them brainstorming different plots and characters, but then something happens to interrupt their work flow. Johnny Depp gets run over by a car right outside of their house, or at least someone who looks like Johnny Depp. Max and Melanie are totally stoned when this happens, and their neighbor Jambo and his girlfriend are hanging out at Melanie’s pool. Being more clear headed than Max or Melanie, Jambo insists on getting the body off the street and into the house. After dragging him in, Max discovers a card in his pocket. It turns out the guy is a Johnny Depp impersonator, but he quickly tears up the card and convinces Melanie that they need to make a movie with the body, because they’d never be able to afford an A-list star like Johnny Depp. So that’s exactly what they do.

I’m not going to go into all the events of the films, because you should really see it. Telling you about it would just spoil the fun. Anyway, on to the review…

This film can really be divided into three sections. The first section involves Max and Melanie brainstorming ideas for their film and trying to come up with a story, location, genre, etc…. It also introduces Melanie’s neighbor Jambo Ernest Hausmann, and his girlfriend Gudrun (Jordan Carver), who, like Melanie and Max also speak both English and German. Jambo is in the country illegally and has a penchant for wearing a big afro wig, and Gudrun is an aspiring actress. during this section, we get to see the scenes in sort of like a fantasy mode while they’re talking about them and continually tweaking their ideas.

Now, the second section of the film involves the Johnny Depp lookalike getting hit by the car and them shootng a variety of scenes with the body. The whole film is good, but this section is not only very clever, but also very funny. Melanie is all disgusted at doing scenes with a body, while Gudrun has no problem with it whatsoever. They also have to figure out a way to dispose of the body afterward, which involves Max calling a friend of his who knows a guy who’s a "cleaner" and can take care of these sorts of things.

The last section of the film involves them attempting to shoot the opening scene that they were discussing at the beginning of the film, only instead of Melanie playing the wife character, as she did when they were discussing it, Gudrun ends up playing her, because the wife dies in the first scene and Melanie didn’t want to die in the first scene. Unfortunately, they’re working with an actor named Carlos, who’s every director’s worst nightmare. He constantly questions the motivations of his character and this and that and something else….man he’s a pain. Gudrun has her problems too, like when she’s supposed to throw coffee in his face and he moves at the last minute and she ends up throwing it all over the cameraman and his camera.

The ending, I have to admit I saw coming a few seconds before it happened. Just long enough to take some of the shock out of it, but man, what a way to top off an already crazy film. I wish I could say what it was, but no way, you need to watch the film for yourself to find out.

There are two things about this film that really make it great. The first is the cast. The characters are all fun and play off of each other well. Even the side characters are fun. There a drug dealer that does impersonations, a drunken British neighbor who loves Shakespere and never remembers anything from one day to the next because he’s drunk all the time, and there are some especially fun scenes where they discuss putting this old guy named Hasso (Gerold Wunstel) into their film because he’s such an eccentric character, and they show him in the scenes as they discuss them.

The second thing that makes this film great, is the production quality, and most especially the cinematography. The production quality of this film is just amazing, but the cinematography specifically is just incredible. Normally I don’t specifically credit DPs (directors of photography) in my reviews, I made it a point to note the name of the DP in this film so I could mention her by name. Alexa Ihrt did just an absolutely phenomenal job in shooting this thing. It’s some really top quality and very impressive work.

The story, while it may feel like it’s bogging down in one thing or another at times, never really does. There’s enough going on that even in the slower parts to keep it interesting and fun, and the characters are people that are just fun to watch anyway, and the whole cast, to the person, was just wonderfully entertaining. It’s one of those films, that while you’re watching it, you start wondering to yourself, "Why aren’t more films like this?"

Writer / director Yangzom Brauen, along with co-writer Gerold Wunstel have created a fun and very entertaining, and I had an absolutely great time watching it. I think you will too, so if you get a chance to see it, make sure you do. You’ll have a blast and come out of it with a smile on your face.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out the film’s website at http://www.whokilledjohnny.com.