New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: Sword of Trust

This small, unpretentious comedy starring comedian Marc Maron, delivers some surprising laughs, despite a thin plot line. Maron, as Mel, leads a talented ensemble playing quirky characters tossing lines back and forth in a pawn shop. Director Lynn Shelton wrote the script with Mike O’Brien who was a staff writer at SNL for 7 years. This film has the feel more of an elongated sketch or a series of them. Shelton packed the cast with actors who can react on a dime and there must be plenty of outtakes where they cracked each other up. 

Maron, known for his stand-up comedy,(GLOW, WTF podcasts) fields random lines like ground balls and throws them back, helping progress the scattershot plot. It revolves around a family relic brought into the pawn shop that might finally prove the South really won the Civil War.

We interviewed Shelton and Maron at the Austin Film Society Awards Red Carpet the night before the kick off of SXSW. Maron, is a crusty comedian who plays the sarcastic owner of a pawn shop in Birmingham, Alabama. Maron was born in New Jersey. It’s an unlikely spot to find a guy like this. He told us he hung out at a similar shop to get into the spirit of his role. Shelton admitted her cast played along with the script, adding their own improv here and there. The pawn shop turns into a weird place. Mel constantly berates his lone employee, a  cute, fun young wacko dude, Nathaniel (John Bass – Dog Days, Baywatch)) who swears that the Earth is flat. 

The plot is not that complicated, but it’s the way the characters play off each other that keeps them sharp as that sword and the ball rolling. But the writers fail to convey any real apprehension or fear in Mel, even when he’s facing imminent death. The script keeps throwing him laugh lines and Maron has his same slightly annoyed expression. That lack of texture removes any intense suspense to the story.

Marc Maron, Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins and John Bass come together as actors and comedians to make a pretty good team despite the contrivances. Maron also wrote and performs the music for the film. 

This film shows using satire that people will want to believe in the most absurd, dumb, patently false things. This Sword may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but it is fun to see this ensemble wield their rapier-like wits.

IFC         89 minutes R

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