Matt (Dallas Roberts) and Sam (Jeremy Renner) have been friends for 20 years. Matt is the ideas man and Sam the salesman for a whole slew of inventions that never quite grab the market in the way they want. Matt keeps exasperating his long-suffering wife by blowing the little money they manage to scrape together on various gambling enterprises, while simultaneously continuing to look out for that one great idea that will make them their millions.


Ingenious (or Lightbulb as it is also known) has been sitting around for a few years now, having wrapped back in 2009. Produced by Arriba Films, its distribution is intended to be funded through Kickstarter, instead of forging a deal with a distribution company. In some ways, it provides an interesting synergy with the theme of the film – eschewing conventional routes to success and development, forging new paths, committing to an idea and persevering in making it happen. Hopefully the planned US theatrical run will happen soon, as the film deserves to find an audience and the intervening years that have sent Renner stratospheric off the back of Avengers, Bourne, Hurt Locker and MI:GP will no doubt help as well.

The “based on a true story” tag helps us engage with the narrative which is relatively conventional. There are obstacles to overcome, mis-steps that cause heart-ache and disappointment and a frustrating determination by Matt and Sam to make bad decisions that do their plans no good at all. They feel like fully-formed characters and behave consistently across their respective arcs. There are no miraculous transformations, just a sincere effort by both of them to do and be better than they have been. Time is invested within the script to show the strength of the bond between the two of them and despite them frequently messing up, they remain likeable and believable.

Pacing-wise, nothing is wasted. There is admirable economy in the editing, which takes us through conversations, meetings and even the odd montage without meandering or getting bogged down. We are able to understand the deals being struck for manufacturing, sale and distribution of Matt’s inventions, without feeling baffled or patronised and although the main story is wrapped up, there are plenty of loose ends in terms of relationships and Sam’s ongoing gambling problem to help us feel that we have dropped in on a period of the lives of people who have more stories to tell either side of what appears on screen.

The acting is all very strong and convincing, both from familiar and unfamiliar cast members. Even peripheral characters avoid being one-dimensional ciphers, whilst the film remains rightly focused on Sam, Matt and Matt’s wife Gina (Munich‘s Ayelet Zurer). If there are any criticisms to level, they are only minor ones. The story feels too conventional at times and although Matt’s winning invention becomes (astonishingly) the world’s fourth most successful/popular novelty item and the film shows us that it genuinely did just “come to him”, we watch the film expecting everything to work out pretty well in the end. This robs the film of a certain amount of dramatic heft, but the more intense dramatic conversations are well-handled as and when they arise and the remarkable success of Matt’s invention warms the heart.

As you can see from clicking through the Kickstarter link above, Ingenious is pushing for a US theatrical release. It is likely to wind up going straight to DVD here in the UK but wherever and however you can get to see it, you should.


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Dave has been writing for HeyUGuys since mid-2010 and has found them to be the most intelligent, friendly, erudite and insightful bunch of film fans you could hope to work with. He's gone from ham-fisted attempts at writing the news to interviewing Lawrence Bender, Renny Harlin and Julian Glover, to writing articles about things he loves that people have actually read. He has fairly broad tastes as far as films are concerned, though given the choice he's likely to go for Con Air over Battleship Potemkin most days. He's pretty sure that 2001: A Space Odyssey is the most overrated mess in cinematic history.