Cannes: The Go-Go Boys – The Inside Story of Cannon Films review

It was actually with a small degree of trepidation that I sat down to watch The Go-Go Boys – The Inside Story of Cannon Films.  While I sincerely enjoy a certain number of Cannon’s films a great deal, those are far outnumbered by the ones that are more likely to engender my disdain. I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch a ninety minute indulgence of Cannon’s lesser output.

Thankfully The Go-Go Boys isn’t what I feared. Sure, Eli Roth appears in order to extoll the virtues of less than classic films, the kind that helped keep stars like Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris in work for many years, but the film goes beyond the tributes to tell a more personal and far more interesting tale. This is the story of Israeli-born cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the men who headed Cannon for much of its existence, and of how they turned the studio into a powerhouse, before flying too close to the sun and destroying it all.

Appropriately enough the straw that broke Cannon’s back appears to have been the relative failure of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. But this real-life remake of the Icarus story began with the rapid ascension of two boys with big dreams, and the rather extraordinary drive to make them happen.

Director Hilla Medalia managed to secure interviews with both Golan and Globus for the film. They each appear to be very happy to speak with her about their successes, but when Medalia pushes Globus to talk about failure, he refuses to elaborate. Golan, meanwhile, even while being the one to trace a more extreme trajectory of rise and fall, is much more forthcoming.

Medalia is clearly not out to simply celebrate the pair and her film fills in the story wherever the cousins leave holes. She suitably addresses their less sensible production choices, the decision to borrow money from the mob, and even Golan’s neglect of his family in pursuit of professional glory.

In addition to the talking head interviews with Golan and Globus and an array of clips, the film also presents interviews with a variety of other voices. American Ninja‘s Michael Dudikoff features quite heavily, and it’s actually rather touching and sad to hear him explain how his entire career was tied into the fate of Cannon.

Jon Voight and Andrey Konchalovsky also appear to discuss Runaway Train, which was made at Cannon. Konchalovsky is very keen to stress the importance of how Golan and Globus worked, as well as how they contributed to his decision to leave Hollywood.

Medalia sensibly spends some time covering the arthouse appendix of the Cannon Films catalogue, highlighting the risks that Golan and Globus took on the careers of filmmakers such as Konchalovsky, Cassavetes, Altman and Polanski. Whilst these decisions may not have always paid off commercially, or even artistically, American cinema is that little bit richer as a result of some of their risk-taking. Consider, for example, Polanski’s incomparable Pirates.

But the Go-Go Boys’ bread and butter remains at the centre of the table, those make ’em cheap, make ’em fast exploitation flicks. It’s for these films, and the memorable logo that proceeded them, that many viewers harbour the great deal of fondness and nostalgia that will help this documentary attract an excited audience.

The Go-Go Boys presents a fascinating portrait that goes beyond the films and tells an enthralling story of two men who grasped the American Dream in all four hands. They may not have always been working towards something that was really worth the effort, but whatever they did, they did it with passion.

I should also note that Medalia was reportedly editing the film right up to the wire for her slot in the Cannes Classic program, and it’s suggested that some elements of the film may be given a bit more polish before release. There were certainly a few clips that appeared in the wrong aspect ratio, and the audio and subtitles were a little off at times, but these problems all seemed to be things that can be easily fixed before public screenings.