What Doesn't Kill You
This was the official website for the 2008 drama movie, What Doesn't Kill You.
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What Doesn't Kill You - MOVIE TRAILER
Based on events from director Brian Goodman's life, "What Doesn't Kill You" stars Mark Ruffalo (Brian) and Ethan Hawke (Paulie) as friends who grew up like brothers on the gritty streets of south Boston. They do whatever it takes to survive, living by the code of their dog-eat-dog neighborhood. Petty crimes and misdemeanors grow into more serious offenses and eventually, they fall under sway to organized crime boss Pat Kelly (played by Goodman). As Brian becomes increasingly lost in a haze of drugs and 'jobs,' even the love he has for his wife (Amanda Peet) and his children does not seem like it will be enough to redeem him. Meanwhile, Paulie plans "one last heist" but knows it will take both of them to pull it off. How can they escape the only life they know?
TOMATOMETER Critics 64% | Audience 46%
'What Doesn't Kill You'
Crime drama features a full-scale performance from Mark Ruffalo.
DECEMBER 20, 2008
– Peter Rainer
The overfamiliarity of "What Doesn't Kill You" is redeemed by a full-scale performance from Mark Ruffalo. He plays Brian, a petty hoodlum from South Boston who, with his best friend Paulie (Ethan Hawke), falls deeper and deeper into organized crime. Ruffalo has had an uneven acting career since his breakthrough performance in 2000 in "You Can Count on Me," where he drew comparisons to the young Brando. This is his best performance since then – intuitive, quicksilver, impassioned. Co-writer and director Brian Goodman, who also appears in the film as a crime boss, based the movie on events from his own life, and portions of it have the tang of actual experience. Grade: B+. (Rated R for language, drug use, some violence and brief sexuality.)
I'm sure the prospect of another Southie-based story of petty criminals isn't enough to cause a stampede at the local video store. However, "What Doesn't Kill You," while stewing in the juices of unapologetic formula, is a more of a direct injection of stark criminal behavior punctuated by exhilarating performances and a soulful dedication to the moody rhythms of despair. It's a stunningly mounted peek into the tormented heart of a hoodlum, shunning pretense to capture the primal scream of temptation.
Partners in crime since they were kids, Brian (Mark Ruffalo) and Paulie (Ethan Hawke) have spent their lives trying to make a quick buck, pulling off minor shakedowns and robberies to pay the mounting bills. With a distressed family at home (including Amanda Peet), Brian can't cope with his reality, turning to drugs to numb his fears. When the boys end up in jail for a five-year stint, Brian discovers a friend in hope, looking to rid himself of his demons when released from prison and allowed to rejoin his family. When Paulie is set free a few months later, Brian feels the tight grip of temptation again, with his longtime pal talking up a potential armored car heist that could take care of all the nagging problems that low-paying legit work can't possibly solve.
"What Doesn't Kill You" won't win any blue ribbons for originality, but it shows a noteworthy patience with character reflection. There's little plot to latch onto here, just a string of seedy vignettes with Brian and Paulie as they violently work over their neighborhood for profit while keeping peace with local crime bosses and tending to nagging domestic duties. Director Brian Goodman (who co-wrote the script with Donnie Wahlberg and Paul T. Murray, based loosely on his own experiences) isn't consumed with an exhaustive narrative drive that pushes the duo to a tightly scripted breaking point. Instead, the films plays loose like jazz, wandering around rooted South Boston locations built on criminal whim, gathering atmosphere to embroider the characterization and harvest enthralling, unexpected angles of tension. It's a direct punch of filmmaking from Goodman that takes a few moments to accurately process trajectory, but soon begins to show remarkable depth and command of the Beantown felon maze.
"Kill" is a character piece carried with amazing shades of interpretation from Hawke and especially Ruffalo, here achieving career-best work as the tormented Brian. While the gentlemen portray common thuggery with all the profanity-laden machismo they can muster, the dimension of the roles is located within the consequences of their actions, as both Brian and Paulie labor to keep their heads above water.
Programmed to lie, steal, and cheat at a tender age, the pair exhibit little control over their lives, a problem exacerbated by Brian's dalliances with crack and booze. Goodman doesn't push sympathy here, he just underlines the vulnerability, especially when Brian seizes a jailhouse opportunity to rebuild his life through proper channels of employment and domestic respect. Ruffalo is a marvel in the role, nailing Brian's gut-churning typhoon of emotions with a special collection of defeated reactions that are far and away the most compelling and natural moments of acting to ever emerge from this actor. Hawke nails his provocateur moments with silver-toothed allure, and Peet gives a standard wifely plea role some needed hurt, but Ruffalo conveys colossal turmoil with minimal showmanship, helping Goodman find needed elements of shame that make the material all the more hypnotic.
The best way to value "What Doesn't Kill You" is to put the clichés out of your mind. Forget about the relentless cop character (played by Wahlberg) looking to harass Brian, the booze-guzzling Boston brotherhood who keep the characters company, and the lure of recidivism as Paulie plots his armored car takedown dreams. We've all seen these moments before. Instead, plug into the elegant emotional current of the feature, observing these actors attempt to articulate the hopelessness and exhaustion of lawlessness. The beauty of this film is found in less obvious areas, and while the effort could incite impatience, the reward is the opportunity to watch a crime film actually honor the concept of silenced redemption without the use of hackneyed acts of tragedy to sell the gravity of the situation
Film Review: What Doesn't Kill You
December 17, 2008
David Noh Film Journal International
Been there, seen that—many times—is the best one can say for this wholly predictable autobiographical account of a life in crime.
Mark Ruffalo has always struck this critic as one of the most interesting, appealing actors in the business, deserving of strong, tailor-made vehicles. What Doesn’t Kill You certainly attempts to give him one, providing a meaty role as Brian, a South Boston hood forever trying to do right by his wife (Amanda Peet) and kids, but inevitably brought down by his drug addiction and criminal ties. Sticking with him through thick and thin is his slightly better-adjusted boyhood pal Paulie (Ethan Hawke), who joins him in running shady little errands for Pat (Brian Goodman), the local kingpin.
The premise is strong enough and it’s certainly grounded in terms of locale (being written by real-life Boston men Brian Goodman and Donnie Wahlberg), but the problem here is one of a certain over-familiarity. The film plays out like a Warner Brothers crime drama circa 1938, the ones that had James Cagney, say, and Pat O’Brien, growing up from Dead End Kids to the wrong and right side of the law. It’s the kind of stuff Martin Scorsese seems maybe, at last, to have tired of making, and which he has previously done so much better.
There’s a strange, strong whiff of anachronism in the setting as well, causing one to wonder if South Boston is indeed as preserved-in-amber and unchanging as it is here presented. You see everything coming, plot-wise, a mile away, from Brian’s incarceration to his downward drug-related spiral to his undoubtedly tragic finale. This is actually an autobiographical account of Goodman’s past life, with his protagonist even sharing his name, which makes it all the more puzzling that it feels more movie-fed synthetic than any actually felt experience.
Ruffalo does what he can with the second-hand material, but even his talents seem rather stale here, a far cry from the blazing, John Garfield intensity which with he seared Broadway in the 2006 revival of Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing or his quirkily affecting, star-making performance in You Can Count on Me. Hawks works overtime with pit-bull intensity, but, as usual, comes off as merely manic, lightweight and actor-y. Wahlberg, ever intent on being taken seriously for his emoting, wrote himself a morose part as a sort of ubiquitous Les Miserables/Javert-type cop to Brian’s Jean Valjean. (For just once, I’d like to see him do something that recaptures his boy-band spunky verve when he was a New Kid on the Block.) Peet does a credible Boston accent but is—surprise!—wasted in an ever-worried and indignant dreary domestic doormat of a role, the kind of character which uninspired males will come up with until the end of civilization as we know it.
What Doesn't Kill You
Directed by Brian Goodman
December 14, 2008 | Rating: 2.5/4
David Nusair Reel Film Reviews
The directorial debut of character actor Brian Goodman, What Doesn't Kill You follows lifelong friends Paulie (Ethan Hawke) and Brian (Mark Ruffalo) as they attempt to navigate the treacherous world of South Boston's lawless underground. Though the pair have been content running small-time criminal endeavors - ie they agree to kidnap a poodle for $5,000 - Paulie and Brian's eventual efforts at going straight prove to be fair more difficult (and flat-out dangerous) than they ever could have imagined. Filmmaker Goodman - working from a script co-written with Donnie Wahlberg and Paul T. Murray - generally does a nice job of infusing the proceedings with a gritty sensibility that feels authentic, yet it's hard to deny that there's just something egregiously familiar about the whole thing. The uniformly superb performances notwithstanding - Ruffalo and Hawke's expectedly stellar work is matched by a supporting cast that includes Wahlberg and Amanda Peet - What Doesn't Kill You primarily unfolds in a manner that's often just a little too reminiscent of other efforts set within South Boston's rough streets. That being said, there's no denying that the film improves considerably once it hits the one-hour mark - as Goodman's decision to take the proceedings into an entirely unpredictable direction proves effective at resuscitating the viewer's dwindling interest. The end result is a sporadically stirring endeavor that undoubtedly benefits from Ruffalo's electrifying turn as Brian, and it's consequently not a stretch to label What Doesn't Kill You the best of Ruffalo's three film fest flicks (after Blindnessand The Brothers Bloom).
**½ Scott M March 8, 2009
Decent enough performances, but the Boston accents got a little tedious, and movies of this style have been done much better than this. The movie is surprisingly uninteresting and not dramatic for all the dramatic things that happen. Ruffalo and Hawke are both terrific actors, but neither does anything special here.
**** Daniel M March 8, 2009
Very good. I love these kind of stories.
*****. ray s February 17, 2009
This is simply a great movie
*** Brian R January 25, 2009
Ruffalo and Hawke make this extremely mediocre rehash fairly enjoyable.
*** Eric A January 23, 2009
A familiar yarn about a hoodlum's redemption retains its emotional impact thanks to Mark Ruffalo's even-handed performance. It's nothing extraordinary--it just is, and there's something endearing about that.
***** Cam S January 23, 2009
Solid crime story, made even better by the fact that it's a true story. Ruffalo deserves his due.
****½ Randy M January 17, 2009
this movie is really fantastic. the writing, acting and everything is rock-solid. Ruffalo and Hawke are very well cast. I was so engaged watching the film, I never commented on my girlfriend's new wig until we were sitting in a restaurant eatting a late night meal. Actually the waiter commented on her great hair style. I took a real look at her and realized "OMG she was wearing a wig. Not that it looked like a wig. Obviously I hadn't noticed. It was just that her hair style was different from her regular look. I was suppose to notice her new look, but I wasn't suppose to comment that she was wearing a wig. Which it really didn't. The little light bulbs began to click on. The only reason I knew it was a wig was because she had looking at this online wig site for weeks and mentioning how she thought the popular Raquel Welch wigs were fantastic....and didn't I think they were great. I had stopped and taken a look, but said until she was wearing one of the styles she liked, I wouldn't be able to give an opinion. After all there were models wearing the wigs which had probably been styled professionally. But I've gtta admit, my girlfriend's wig looked so natural. I'm an idiot not to have complimented her earlier in the evening. But this movie had me hooked.
It follows the story of Brian and Paulie: two friends who grow up as criminals. it shows how difficult it is to leave that type of life once you've been sucked into it. sort of like GOODFELLAS, but without the glamor the gangsters felt in the first half of that film. and they are lower on the totem pole than those characters.
its a real shame, too, because this film's distributor filed for Chapter 11. the same company is responsible for NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, another one of 2008's very best films, which might not see a release (or a wide enough one).
this may never get a release date. but i highly recommend everyone check it out when it hits DVD.
Marvin H December 16, 2008
Mark Ruffalo's looking solid.
**** Matt M December 12, 2008
This was a pretty good movie. I just got back from the NY premier and was fortunate enough to hear Brian speak about it afterwards. Yes, he still has the bullet in his head. Funny at times and edgy at others, it was a touching look at one man's rough life, from crime to drugs to redemption. It only suffers from trying to stuff too much into too little of a time frame, so it seems a little choppy at times. But, that's not much of a distraction from the overall heart of the movie. Worth a watch.
Simon W December 12, 2008
I like the cast and i like the look of it but it's difficult to bring something new to the table with something like this. Hopefully it'll be just a case of pure quality shining through.
David F December 8, 2008
The fact that this is based on director Brian Goodman (one of the Others from 'Lost') has me hooked!
**** Dan M December 4, 2008
This was a very interesting story, with a good twist. The actors were very impressive, especially Mark Ruffalo.
**** Ryan T December 3, 2008
I liked this movie, and it ended just the way wanted it to. It has a good score and really good acting, notably from Mark Ruffalo who successfully sheds his good-boy image to play a crook from Southie.
Marcela C November 30, 2008
My love for Hawtpants vs. my h8 towards Ruffalo. DUN DUN DUN
Arthur Z November 29, 2008
i feel like that last 10 movies ive seen or heard about involve either the mob, boston, or both. makes me wonder is boston that dirty of a city?
amanda peet does make a pretty dramatic performance in it tho.
***½Cathy B November 23, 2008
Kind of reminded me of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (especially the opening shots) ;) - but amazing story! And great acting!! =)
****½ Marie-Claude C October 8, 2008
Reminded me a bit of a mix of Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River and Before The Devil Knows You're Dead. Very enjoyable. Apparently close to the true story (experienced by Brian Goodman, the writer/director).
**** Brad S September 20, 2008
This film stars Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke and Donnie Wahlberg. An excellent film which i caught at TIFF, worth seeking out when released.