Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone: A Review



Imagine having enough money to finance your own film. You create the story. You can hire known names to appear. You can even star in the film and give yourself not one, not two, not even three but six screen credits. Well, imagine no more, for behold Green Ghost and the Masters of Stone, which may be the Citizen Kane of vanity projects. 

Struggling car dealer Charlie (Charlie Clark) moonlights as a lucha libre fighter known as "Green Ghost" (a play on "gringo"), though to be fair his unofficial brother Marco aka "MexiCan" (Kuno Becker) does most if not all the actual wrestling. Charlie, the unofficial son of a Mexican family, has been deliberately kept in the dark about a deep adoptive family secret.

He is part of a Mayan prophesy on the Apocalypse. Marco and his sister Karina (Sofia Pernas), along with their beloved Nana (Renee Victor) are the Trio of Light, who must stop the embodiment of the Apocalypse from destroying the world. That will be difficult as the Apocalypse is their cousin. Nana's sister Lechusa (Elpidia Carrillo) has birthed the Apocalypse, whose name is Drake (Marko Zazor). Yes, Drake.

With Nana temporarily out of commission, the Trio of Light needs a third. Enter our Gringo/Green Ghost, who needs a crash course in training to fight evil. Among his three trainers are Master Gin (Danny Trejo), who has mastered the drunken part of "drunken master" but not much else. Now all three must join together to stop Apocalypse Drake and save the world.

Reviewing Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone is difficult for me for one major reason. 

I find Charlie Clark annoying.

First, a little background.

Charlie Clark, twice-credited star, producer, executive producer, story by and cowriter of Green Ghost, is a literal used car salesman*. Many used car salesmen need gimmicks or schtick to separate themselves, and Mr. Clark's schtick is that of "Anglo white guy who is really more Mexican than tequila". He speaks Spanish fluently! He grew up watching Lucha Libre and Chapulin Colorado! He says "ORALE!" a lot! He likes carne asada!

Some would call such behavior "cultural appropriation". Charlie Clark clearly would not, and to be fair his Spanish is strong (the film is peppered with multilingual dialogue). Maybe he thought the sight of him flinging tortillas at the villains would be funny. Even if it were, why give us the villains' POV on said tortilla flinging? 

I am vaguely aware of who this man is and am not impressed with his schtick. I was therefore stunned to find he was starring in his own feature film. Even now, I still cannot believe it. Everything about Green Ghost is so self-aggrandizing, like a middle-aged man having the financial resources to live out oddball childhood fantasies. That a man clearly incapable of acting had a large enough ego to cast himself as the lead is already bad enough.

As a side note, as the film progresses, I think Clark didn't even bother trying to act. It makes those moments where Charlie the character has some kind of dramatic moments all the more eye-rolling. 

That he was so egocentric that he was almost delightfully unaware that Green Ghost made no sense, even by its low standards, makes things more cringe than funny. When we get flashbacks to Charlie's early years, young Charlie is around Marco's age if not younger. As adults, Charlie looks at least a decade older than Marco. Granted, Kuno Becker looks younger than his 44 years in Green Ghost, but Clark is clearly older. Sometimes he looks like Marco's father, yet we're asked to believe they grew up together or more bizarrely, that Charlie is even younger than Marco!

Not since Lucille Ball tried to pass herself off as a mid-30- to 40-year-old at age 63 in Mame has the screen seen someone far too old to play the title character try to make anyone think they were age-appropriate and fail so spectacularly.

The script, co-written by Clark, Brian Douglas and director Michael D. Olmos, could never decide if Charlie was an adult or a mental child. He is the head of a struggling car dealership, with adult issues and desires, but he also repeatedly asks "Are we there yet?" like a 6-year-old as they seek out the hidden temple. 

A younger actor would have been a better choice as Charlie/Green Ghost. A genuine actor would have been a better choice as Charlie/Green Ghost. You can find blonde, blue-eyed Mexican actors or American actors who speak Spanish fluently. Clark, too wrapped up in his loving tribute to his Mexican nanny, did not seem to notice or I imagine, care.

Green Ghost was, for good or ill, somewhat self-aware with the actual actors. Becker and Zaror are just cashing a check and attempting to escape their cash grab with some dignity. They did not play their roles as straight camp, but as more "we know this is a vanity project for some Texas car salesman so let's just have some fun with this". 

Trejo is the highlight of Green Ghost. He knew this is beneath anyone who called him/herself an actor but still rose to the occasion, bringing life to the film whenever he was on screen. There is even a nice in-joke when Trejo's Master Gin is offered a machete. "Machete? I don't need no sticking machete!", he replies. I will give them credit for that, though one wonders if the children that I figure are the target audience would get the joke. 

Green Ghost at times looked cheap, even for something as silly as this. The opening scene with its cheap sets made it look like they had wandered onto the Legends of the Hidden Temple set. A lot of money seemed to have been spent on both the many animated sequences and music licensing. 

As a side note, Raiders of the Hidden Temple to my mind sounds like a better title. 

Yes, one should be a little lenient with something like Green Ghost given it does not have the budget that an MCU catering service would. Still, it still is bad to see something so amateurish. If you make a film just so that your car dealership employees can have some fun seeing themselves on screen, it be better to just take them to a sports stadium and have them pop up on the jumbo-sized screen. 

Perhaps the worst part of Green Ghost is that its full title Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone suggests there will be more adventures of our automotive superhero. I suppose Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone might, possibly might, entertain children. 

Dumb children. 

Whether Charlie Clark (who again credited himself six times, with two separate credits as "Charlie" and "Green Ghost") will mount another jaunt remains to be seen. Given this production, he might better use of his money on charity versus vanity.

Finally, one last technical point. "Green Ghost" is a play on "gringo". For Charlie Clark, who celebrates his faux-Mexican heritage to an almost cartoonish level, would he not know that Mexicans would use "gabacho" rather than "gringo" for an Anglo-American like Charlie Clark?  



* Technically, he sells used and new cars, but I don't know if new car salesmen also have gimmicks or schticks.

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