Ike Barinholtz isn’t shooting fish in a barrel with his new mockumentary. He’s blasting them with an AK-47.
“Maximum Truth” turns the camera on soulless grifters out to squeeze every last penny from our warped political age. Think Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, the far-right poseurs who often land in hot water for their stunts.
What co-writer Barinholtz does, though, is let us sympathize with these pathetic con men.
Just a little, mind you. Maybe an ounce of empathy. It’s enough to give “Maximum Truth” a satisfying core to build its story.
Barinholtz plays Rick Klingman, a grifter who stumbled into his craft after winning some frivolous lawsuits. Now, he’s a hired gun, taking down any politician by digging through their personal dirt.
Even if said dirt doesn’t exist. Why would that matter? It’s politics, right? You can find dirt anywhere. You just have to look hard enough and believe any outlandish story you hear online.
Just ask Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Rick is joined by Simon (Dylan O’Brien), a self-absorbed influencer (redundant?) punching over his intellectual weight.
Together, they’re hoping to torch a candidate (Max Minghella) by finding damaging stories from his past.
“Maximum Truth” stars slowly, offering a few overt laughs while letting us get to know Rick. He’s clearly gay, labeling his male roommate as his professional “assistant” to avoid the obvious. It’s a running gag the film doesn’t lean into enough.
Rick has an answer for everything, a positive spin for any disastrous pivot he’s forced to make. There’s something noble about his ignorance, a willingness to see the glass of spoiled milk as half full.
Simon, given an unexpected comic jolt by O’Brien, is more of a wrecking ball. He’s unbound by morals and eager to hawk his “Shreded” supplement brand (even if he doesn’t know the word has two “Ds” in a row).
The mockumentary never finds its gut-busting moment, but the laughs bubble up as the efficient story movies on. You’ll smile, wince and recognize too much of what happens on screen.
Barinholtz, who contributed to the disappointing “History of the World Part II” project, is an unabashed liberal. He proved that with “The Oath,” a political satire that sank, in part, due to overt partisanship.
Here, the actor/co-screenwriter is tweaking GOP types, but “Maximum Truth” targets a deeply flawed system first and foremost. Yes, a scene where a gun devotee brandishes a weapon goes exactly where you expect it to, but the film understands grifters hail from both parties.
It’s the political climate that needs to be destroyed.
Plus, the scene in question delivers the biggest laugh of the film.
— Momentum Pictures (@Momentum_Pics) June 20, 2023
“Maximum Truth” hits the target over and again, but one deserving party comes out unscathed, and it’s the film’s regrettable flaw.
Here, they’re treated like sober, responsible truth-tellers when anyone who follows the news these days knows that’s no longer true.
Reporters even get a “truth to power” moment late in the film that is both unearned and unnecessary. Nauseating.
Otherwise, “Maximum Truth” offers a crush of low-budget laughs hitting targets both sides of the political aisle can agree have it coming.
HiT or Miss: “Maximum Truth” has plenty to say about the state of political theater, and much of it is amusing and spot-on.