After making multiple documentaries centered on Kevin Smith’s creative process making films like Jay & Silent Bob Reboot (2019) and Clerks III (2022), writer/director Josh Roush unleashes his own intellectual progeny, Wrong Reasons. Conceived prior to the initial COVID-19 lockdown and shot during, Roush took his punk rock-inspired completed project on the road to 11 cities across the country from December 2022 – April 2023. Now, via MVD Entertainment Group’s MVD Visual label, Roush’s Wrong Reasons gets the physical release treatment, including a bevy of on-disc bonus materials that will delight fans of the satirical thriller and potentially inspire budding filmmakers to pick up their cameras.
Punk rocker and L.A. transplant Kat Oden (Liv Roush) spends her days and nights getting high with her boyfriend Nick Boon (John Enick). One night, when both are incapacitated, a man in a mask breaks into their home and takes Kat hostage. Awakening in a strange place, chained to a bed, and still reeling, Kat is at her most vulnerable. With each moment more vital than the last, lead detective Charles Dobson (Ralph Garman) tries to rundown the suspects and track down leads, but each time, he’s either beaten to the punch by keyboard warriors or the press. With the press and glory hounds chomping at the bit, Dobson does what he feels he has to do to track down this merciless kidnapper, but how strange is it for Kat to discover that she may be in better hands now than before.
Though there was no spoiler-free theatrical release review of Wrong Reasons published on EoM, what follows will touch on a few specific aspects of the narrative in order to the film fully for the home release.
A lot of Wrong Reasons *feels* like a directorial debut, even though it’s very obviously not. It appears in the gives-no-shits vibe that infuses the film entire, with the characters making great use of the minimal spaces used, skipping over making the characters attractive in favor of making them real, and allowing the script to carry the weight of significance where the technical aspects may lag (figuratively or literally). Much of this plays to the strengths of Wrong Reasons, fitting in with the Kat Oden punk-rockness of the film, her being the object out from which the film revolves. The key thing here is “object” — Kat is entirely treated as an object up until a moment of self-actualization by the character, at which point she takes back her narrative and becomes a person. This is, of course, where the script shines as it explores what “wrong reasons” are and the difference between social responsibility and a toxic parasocial relationship.
The technical definition of “parasocial” refers to a dynamic where one person puts in all the energy and another doesn’t even know they exist. Ordinarily, this is used to define the relationship between a celebrity and their fans. There are good and bad fans in every track, often, in my view, made worse with the notion of stanning as it presumes that one’s own passion for someone else creates some kind of ownership of that person, object, or fandom, thereby making it difficult to separate one’s self from the focal point. Regarding Wrong Reasons, Josh Roush uses Kat to explore the ways in which those who only see you as an object will take anything they can get, will use you, exalt you, destroy you, in an effort to better themselves. So while some of the writing in Wrong Reasons comes off as heavy-handed, it is no less incorrect in exploring the ways in which family, fans, press, and anyone else will try to take you down if it means lifting themselves up. On the other hand, through the kidnapper, another concept comes up exploring the idea of what we owe each other. Impressively, Josh Roush never tries to rehabilitate the kidnapper, only humanize, so that while we can all agree the methods are extreme and law-breaking, they are understandable to a degree. Where all the other characters do wrong things for the wrong reasons, there’s no wiggle room that the kidnapper did the wrong thing, but with kindness in his heart. When one is surrounded by leeches, even a man in a bear-like mask chaining you to a bed becomes a strange kind of hero. In this regard, Wrong Reasons is a powerful rumination on the ways in which our failure to help those who need help, to nurture their pain to our benefit, is not punk rock in the slightest. Punk Rock is to defy normalcy, to rage in the face of the ordinary, to challenge the status quo to not be a cog in a machine that maintains it. Layer after layer, Josh Roush explores the ways in which our current systems benefit the manipulative, the fame-seeking, the got-there-first over things like the truth, and the ways in which we’re all culpable of the system staying in place.
At one point in the film, while discussing music, James Parks’s kidnapper makes a retching sound when saying the word “critics.” Even as I type this, I agree with him to a degree. Critics are often seen as the enemy and should be ignored, especially when they disagree with your own feelings. That said, as a reader, you should be tracking down critics who share your sensibilities when determining whether what someone has proclaimed possesses any merit. By and large, critics are fans, too, hoping to be surprised and being disappointed when that doesn’t happen as we take in (on average) far more than the typical ingester of art. So when I express frustration over the fact that the introductory sequence with Dobson has all the audio is out of sync, that there’re several moments of audio clipping, that a lot of the agency developed for Kat comes off as reduced when, in a moment of vulnerability for the character, the audience is invited to observe her naked, know that they’re not the gripes of purveyor of high art but the observations of a cinema fan. The first two can be attributed to gorilla filmmaking, but the second comes off as strange when the character (up to this point) has been treated with grace despite being verbally and suggestively violated. This isn’t about disliking nudity or preferring a prudish approach to storytelling, but up to that point, Josh Roush seems to care a great deal for how Kat is handled until this moment which does nothing for the character or the audience other than make us culpable in Kat’s agency being reduced.
As this is a home release, there’s a few things to run-down in case you’re curious about what to expect.
First, some versions will come with a slipcover that features one poster that has James Parks’s masked kidnapper standing next to a reclining in a chair and chained Liv as Kat Oden. The liner is the same on the front with the reverse side featuring the tour poster that’s filled with a bit more of a punk rock horror vibe. Though the tour design doesn’t really align with the execution of Wrong Reasons on the whole (it’s far tamer than one might expect and is not a horror film at all, even with the kidnapping premise), but fits the energy of the film better than the odd energy of the slipcover design. The included Blu-ray case is clear, enabling buyers to see whichever version they select as the reverse design in their collection and one single disc. As this review is based on the Blu-ray, I can confirm that the art design of the disc includes three images: two of Kat in differing states of distress and one of the kidnapper’s mask.
As for on-disc materials, the majors could take a page from what’s included here. There’s an introduction from producer/actor Kevin Smith (yes, the aforementioned Smith) that you can watch on its own or tacked onto the feature, two different commentary tracks, a Q&A, Josh Roush’s short film Idiot Cops, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a theatrical trailer. There are major releases that only include a trailer and call it a day, so everything on this release is going to feel like a blessing to fans of the film, not just because they get the chance to learn something about the making of the movie from the filmmakers, but because it demonstrates that Josh Roush *wants* people to know as much as they can about the making of the film. With the increase in technology in terms of high-quality for low price-point, there’s a certain democratization of filmmaking that should inspire anyone who wants to make movies to give it a try. Materials like this only reinforce that idea.
Now, as a fan of Smith’s and the fact that Josh Roush includes a number of familiar faces, either as cameos or central characters, allow me to be clear that there’s a lot about Wrong Reasons that’s worth your time and energy. It’s great seeing Garman playing things more straight, even if he’s a sleezeball. Parks offers a compelling and measured performance in a role that’s not easy to balance between thematic expectation and execution. For her part, Liv is the key, giving a performance that’s textured and complex, yet raw and fragile. For these elements and the rich exploration of ideas in the script, one is less likely to grow frustrated and more likely to try to score a ticket to Josh Roush’s next tour.
Wrong Reasons Special Features:
- Introduction by Kevin Smith
- Commentary with Director Josh Roush, Co-Producer Matt Rowbottom, Composer Cam Mosavian and Star Liv Roush
- Commentary with Director Josh Roush and Executive Producer Kevin Smith
- Q & A with Writer / Director Josh Roush, Producer / Star Live Roush moderated by Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman
- Short Film from Director Josh Roush: Idiot Cops
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Deleted Scenes
- Optional English Subtitles
- Reversible Artwork
Available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD August 15th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official Wrong Reasons website.
To purchase, head to the MVD Entertainment Group Wrong Reasons webpage.
Final Score: 3 out of 5.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.