Movie Review: Bad boy blues

Unfriendly rivals ... McBride (R) and Goggins share a unique chemistry portraying contrasting characters on Vice Principals.
McBride

THE hilarious dark comedy limited series Vice Principals draws to a close, with its final episode in season two set to air on HBO (Astro channels 411/431) on Nov 13 at 11.30am (with a primetime encore at 10.30pm).

To prep for the big finale, viewers can now watch the entire first season as well as previous episodes of the second season on HBO On Demand (via Astro Go).

Season one (which aired here last year) introduced viewers to Neal Gamby (played by Danny McBride), the not-so-bright vice-principal of North Jackson High School, who has hoped to be promoted when the current one retires.

However, when the job goes to a more qualified Dr Belinda Brown (Kimberly Herbert Gregory), Gamby and his sociopathic, co-vice-principal Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) enter into an unholy alliance to bring her down.

They finally force her to resign by threatening to expose a video recording of her drunk and unruly behaviour.

Gamby and Russell become acting co-principals of the school. However, the first season ends with Gamby getting shot by a masked assailant.

Season two begins with Gamby trying to find out who wanted him dead, while Russell is now the sole principal but proves unpopular with the faculty.

All of Gamby's investigations are in vain, but a recent huge revelation shines light on a new suspect – Russell.

McBride (Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express) is not just the lead actor, but also the co-creator (with Jody Hill), co-writer and executive producer of the series.

Season two sees him reunited with director David Gordon Green, who gave McBride his first movie role in 2003's All the Real Girls.

During a recent teleconference interview, McBride revealed that Vice Principals was shot two years ago in one go, with a total of 18 episodes split into two nine-episode seasons.

Working opposite an acclaimed actor like Goggins (who starred in TV series like The Shield, Justified, and Six, as well as films such as The Hateful Eight and Django Unchained) he said was an exciting experience, and more so with the wonderful chemistry that they share as 'frienemies'.

"Working with Walton Goggins must be one of the highlights of my career," said McBride.

"He is such a good man. He is so funny and an incredible actor. I couldn't have asked for anyone better to be in the show.

"We worked so hard on his character, and making that character memorable. We gave the words, but he made the character come alive, and I will always be indebted to him for that."

Despite Russell being the obvious suspect, Gamby somehow gets easily distracted (and manipulated by Russell) into pursuing other suspects.

McBride explained: "Gamby is definitely not a good detective. He wants to know who shot him, but he gets distracted by everything else in his life."

The more you learn about Gamby, the more you realise that he is actually a good guy. So why would Gamby go out on a limb for the manipulative Russell?

McBride reasoned: "At the end of the day, Gamby is a man of his word, and I think that is where he compromises himself.

"I think he realised that Belinda Brown was more than just his enemy. He shared a lot of things in common with her. So when he turns his back on her, he regrets it.

"With (Russell), for better or worse, Gamby has a soft spot for him. Gamby understands (him) a little differently than other people do.

"I think as a friend, Gamby is the guy you could call on and he will come through.

"I think the tragedy of Vice Principals is that a man like Gamby is paired up with a man like Lee Russell who has a diabolical bent, who then pushes this loyal guy to do some very bad things."

McBride said that dark comedies that go for jokes make the characters seem unreal.

"I find myself being bored by dark comedies because they are only going for jokes. I don't feel the characters are real," he said.

That's why for Vice Principals, they tried to delve deeper into the characters' psyche, which really requires the actors to emote when the camera focuses on their face and eyes at the end of each scene.

"I want people to feel that these are real characters. I want people to feel their pain and hurt and also laugh with them," McBride explained.

"We are trying to achieve that connectivity between the audience and the characters so that the audience really care what happened to them."