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Mickey Rourke, Nate Wolff

Mickey Rourke, Nate Wolffe

“ASHBY” My rating: C+

100 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Ashby” is a stew of a movie — part coming-of-age story, part assassination thriller, part comedy, part romance, part drama.

Ed (Nat Wolffe) is the new kid in town, freshly arrived in a D.C. suburb with his romantically challenged mother (Sarah Silverman) and feeling very much the outsider.

Assigned by a teacher to interview and write a story about an older person, Nat approaches his well-worn next door neighbor, Ashby (Mickey Rourke).

Initially Ashby refuses to cooperate, maintaining that he doesn’t know any old people. But he changes his mind because he needs Nat to drive him on errands.  In an early scene Ashby was told by a doctor that he has only three months to live. He’s not supposed to get behind the wheel.

Tony McNamara’s film is really two stories. In the first, Nat overcomes his lack of confidence to try out for the high school football team. And he enjoys smart-kid banter with Eloise (Emma Roberts), the dweeby classmate who shares his disdain for the conventions of teen life.

In the second, Ashby goes on a killing spree to get revenge on his old CIA bosses, whom he discovers had him assassinate an environmental activist not for national security reasons but because the guy opposed a real estate development the suits were investing in.

Nat Wolffe, Emma Roberts

Nat Wolffe, Emma Roberts

Between gunplay Ashby and Ed (who finds himself driving the getaway car) share life lessons.  It’s like a particularly twisted remake of Bill Murray’s “St. Vincent.”

Individual moments work reasonably well (the best are featured in the film’s trailer), and the scenes between Wolffe and Roberts are particularly enjoyable — even innocently romantic.

An appreciation of “Ashby” depends upon one’s tolerance of Rourke, whose frozen features (too much plastic surgery? Botox?) limit his ability to express emotion. I was less than impressed.

| Robert W. Butler

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