Review: ‘Small Engine Repair’ Explores Toxic Masculinity with Thrilling Effect.

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SMALL ENGINE REPAIR

Frankie (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Wigham) are lifelong friends who share a love of the Red Sox, rowdy bars, and Frankie’s teenaged daughter Crystal (Ciara Bravo). But when Frankie invites his pals to a whiskey-fueled evening and asks them to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore, events spin wildly out of control. Based on Pollono’s award-winning play, Small Engine Repair is a pitch-black comedic drama with a wicked twist and a powerful exploration of brotherhood, class struggle, and toxic masculinity.


Frankie (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Whigham) are working-class men that share a friendship bond going back to childhood. That bond is strengthened further by their co-parenting of Frankie’s beloved daughter Crystal, who has spent a lifetime being raised by a loving– if raucous– male collective. This sets the scene for a fascinating character study of a group of men raised in a culture steeped in toxic masculinity who struggle to push back against it but often fall incredibly short. 

At first, Small Engine Repair seems like a dark family drama with a comedic edge. However, it is not until the second act that the viewer realizes that they are in the midst of a thriller. Complex performances by the entire cast gradually build tension through sharp looks, quick words, and complicated histories until the atmosphere on screen is so thick with menace that suddenly, every word and movement is a threat. It is hard to say more without giving away the shocking twists that a seemingly ordinary whiskey-fueled night in a garage would unleash. So instead, I will say that the tightly directed and brilliantly acted Small Engine Repair had me holding my breath through the finale.


In Theaters September 10, 2021


Written and Directed by

John Pollono

Starring: Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Jordana Spiro, John Pollono, Ciara Bravo, Spencer House


Netflix News: ‘Ozark’ trailer totally got the sound right

Raised in southern Missouri, aka the Ozarks, I was looking for something recognizable in the new trailer for the Jason Bateman/Laura Linney series, Ozark. There’s some footage of a lake, ok, but nothing specific. A clip starts with a couple standing outside their house. Then I heard it. The sound of bugs that’s all-encompassing. It’s something I almost miss. Almost. Oh, and the series looks good too.

A Chicago financial advisor who has been quietly laundering money for a drug kingpin, must quickly uproot his kids and move the operation to The Ozarks, after his partner is caught cheating the business.  There, he bumps heads with both a local drug dealer whose business he inadvertently interrupts, and a clan of ruffians, led by their 19-year-old niece, who want his money, all the while avoiding the eye of a tenacious FBI agent.  He must complete his laundering, to save the life of his family, as they struggle to find their own path in this seemingly foreign way of life.

The Netflix original series Ozark stars Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Sofia Hublitz, Skylar Gaertner, Julia Garner, Jordana Spiro, Jason Butler Harner, Esai Morales, Peter Mullan and Lisa Emery. Directed by Jason Bateman, Daniel Sackheim, Ellen Kuras and Andrew Bernstein. Produced by Patrick Markey. Executive produced by Jason Bateman, Chris Mundy, Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams. A production of Media Rights Capital and Aggregate Films.

Netflix News: New series ‘Ozark’ starring Jason Bateman & Laura Linney releases July 21st

I grew up in the Ozarks, so I’m particularly interested in this series. I can’t wait to binge!

A Chicago financial advisor, who has been quietly laundering money for a drug kingpin, must quickly uproot his family and move the operation to The Ozarks, after his partner is caught cheating the business.  There, he bumps heads with both a local drug dealer whose business he inadvertently interrupts, and a clan of ruffians, led by their 19-year-old niece, who want his money, all the while avoiding the eye of a tenacious FBI agent.  He must complete his laundering, to save the life of his family, as they struggle to find their own path in this seemingly foreign way of life.

The Netflix original series: Ozark stars Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Sofia Hublitz, Skylar Gaertner, Julia Garner, Jordana Spiro, Jason Butler Harner, Esai Morales, Peter Mullan and Lisa Emery. Directed by Jason Bateman, Daniel Sackheim, Ellen Kuras and Andrew Bernstein. Produced by Patrick Markey. Executive produced by Jason Bateman, Chris Mundy, Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams. A production of Media Rights Capital and Aggregate Films.