As awards season swiftly approaches, smaller and smaller films with outstanding casts are going to be hitting theaters and streaming services. Small Engine Repair is one such film that will likely get a few nominations during award season. It’s a well-executed film that stumbles a bit toward the end but is an overall enjoyable experience at home or in theaters. Let’s take a closer look at our Small Engine Repair review.
Small Engine Repair is written, directed, and stars John Pollono, who also wrote and starred in a play of the same name. Despite all the hats that Pollono wears, it’s perfectly understandable if that name is unfamiliar to you. While Small Engine Repair is his directorial debut, he has written a few short films, and the well-received 2017 film Stronger, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. More importantly, he is also the writer for the upcoming Hulk Hogan biopic that will feature Marvel Studio’s phenom, Chris Hemsworth in the lead role.
If Pollono’s writing in Small Engine Repair is any indication of what audiences can expect from the Hulk Hogan biopic, we’re in for a treat. The first half of Small Engine Repair offers a masterclass in writing and filmmaking. Pollono tactfully introduces each of the main characters in a way that not only feels very natural but also provides the audience with ample information about each person and their relationships within the film.
Small Engine Repair is the story of Frank Romanoski (John Pollono), a single father raising his teenage daughter, Crystal (Ciara Bravo). His childhood friends Terrance Swaino (Jon Bernthal) and Packie Hanrahan (Shea Whigham) not only helped Frank raise Crystal, but were his rock when his ex-wife Karen (Jordana Spiro) would come and go, leaving a shell of a man in her wake each time.
Beyond marital issues and the trials that come with raising a daughter on your own, the crew has all the normal problems you might expect from growing up in the small town of Manchester, New Hampshire, affectionately known as Manch-Vegas. With heavy Boston accents abound, Frank owns a small engine repair shop near the edge of town, where his friends hang out on a regular basis, rarely leaving the city.
As the first half of the film navigates the bonds these friends have created, while seamlessly showcasing the faults of each character, it slowly builds toward a shocking finale. Suddenly, a small film about a few people who inhabit a quiet east coast town turns into a suspense thriller. The twist near the end is slowly revealed to attentive audience members, but a minor plot hole unravels an otherwise flawless film.
To be fair, some people will not notice the plot hole, especially if they take the film at face value and don’t think too hard about the final act. For others, they will be bothered by the simple solutions to the complex problem presented near the end of the film. The problem with the final act isn’t something that completely ruins the film, but it does put a small chip in an otherwise wonderful movie.
In short, Small Engine Repair is a perfectly executed film that builds toward an ending that would be wholly satisfying if not for one minor problem that we won’t spoil here. With exceptional performances from the entire cast, who also played these same roles in the original play, Small Engine Repair is a great kick-off to the awards season, where it will hopefully get a fair amount of attention before Pollono moves into Hulkamania.
About Small Engine Repair
Synopsis: Events spin wildly out of control when three lifelong friends agree to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore.
Director: John Pollono
Writer: John Pollono
Stars: Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Ciara Bravo, Josh Helman, Jordana Spiro
Runtime: 1 Hour, 43 Minutes
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.