2 min read


The tragedy of business.

Hollywood has been on a true business story kick lately. In the last few years, we've had "Air" about Nike, "WeCrashed" about WeWork, "Tetris" on Tetris, among many others. Joining that list is "Blackberry," about the eponymous phone. The device defined working culture of the early 2000's, as office workers suddenly found their work permanently attached to their hip. But then it faded away into obscurity, annihilated by the iPhone. Now, Matt Johnson, the film's director and co-screenwriter, is bringing that story to the silver screen, to take us behind the keyboard and remind us both what made Blackberry so special and what tore it apart.

The easiest comparison for "Blackberry" is 2012's "The Social Network" about the founding of Facebook, where an awkward coder, Mark Zuckerberg, inadvertently gets sucked into a corporate dream. That journey maps perfectly onto Jay Baruchel's performance as Mike Lazaradis, who must compulsively fix anything that produces unnecessary noise. But in actual fact, the better comparison is 2001's "Training Day," a film about a rookie cop attached to a senior corrupt police officer, who drags him into a life of crime. Like "Training Day," "Blackberry" is about meeting the devil. He's got a slick smile, an easy charm, and whatever you want, he can deliver. But that shiny veneer hides an ugliness, a sinister, insatiable greed. In "Blackberry," the devil doesn't carry a badge and gun. He wears a sleek suit, a shining tie clip, and a golden rolex. He is Jim Balsillie and he's promising Lazaradis the world.

Playing Balsillie is Glenn Howerton in a career-high performance. Comedy fans may know Howerton as the sociopathic Dennis from "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia," and those same fans will know Howerton's right at home with untethered rage. Howerton brings those same comedic sensibilities to this character, often through Balsillie's raw contempt for the nerds surrounding him. But what elevates the performance beyond swearing, shouting, and a throbbing forehead vein, is the desperation Howerton imbues into the character's mannerisms. That makes for the  most painful part of the film, when we start to see the wide-eyed perfectionist Lazaradis begin to become the devil himself over the years. That long time-span makes for a wonderful performance from Baruchel as Lazaradis, tightening up as the company soars into the stratosphere, just as Balsillie unravels. It's an unlikely pair, but it's an incredible showing of onscreen chemistry from the two usually comedic actors.

Why has the corporate biopic become such a staple? Perhaps the hypothetical joy of successful enterprise presents an equivalent power fantasy to the superhero. But what most of these commercials posing as films fail to acknowledge is that they are almost equally unlikely. That's why "Blackberry" is a breath of fresh air. It leans away from capitalistic euphoria, and into corporate tragedy. So amidst all the other noise out there, "Blackberry" cuts through like a clear ringtone in a quiet meeting.

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