A theatrically engaging tale, The Job began life as a play and it shows. There are some nicely written scenes and some interesting dialog is spread out amongst the different characters. The themes and moral of the story are also an amorphous blob which no one involved, including the writer/director really has a handle on, and the plot is kind of a lurching beast. The stuff here that's good would work just as well on the stage and the stuff that was clearly added on or changed for the film doesn't have the same rhythm or spark. I liked The Job enough that when it got to the end and I realized it didn't amount to anything or have a legitimate point to make, I wasn't bothered. That's mostly because I enjoyed watching Ron Perlman and Joe Pantoliano ham it up, so take that for what it's worth.
Bubba (Patrick Flueger) is a chronically unemployed dude in the rundown part of Detroit and yeah, I know that doesn't narrow it down much. When he's not working, looking for work or getting fired, Bubba stops by a diner across from his shabby apartment. The waitress there named Joy (Taryn Manning) is clearly infatuated with Bubba, but he's too ashamed of his hard scrabble life to respond to her flirtations. Then one day, a talkative good ol' boy named Jim (Ron Perlman) rolls into town. He inserts himself into Bubba's existence and gives him a tip on a job.
Following up on it, Bubba meet's the mysterious Perriman (Joe Pantoliano, who is clearly doing an impersonation of someone and I can't quite place it. It's not John Huston or that old guy from The Paper Chase, but it's someone like that). Perriman says he has the perfect assignment for Bubba and our hero is all excited about it until he learns that it's to choke a man to death. Bubba initially rejects the idea but can't resist the payoff of $200,000 and how that would let him start a life with Joy. So he subcontracts out the actual killing to Jim for half the loot, but that doesn't play out at all like he planned.
The best things about The Job are Perlman and Pantoliano seemingly having a ball playing characters that are a certainly a departure from their usual fare. They've both played funny before, but here Pantoliano is superbly mannered and Perlman is irrepressibly jovial. Their performances overpower any of the problems with the plot and render the confused state of the story an afterthought. Patrick Flueger does a nice job with the anguished desperation of Bubba, but he's outshined as well by Taryn Manning who's not just adorable but perfectly pulls off the awkward sappiness of true love. The Job is also fairly funny, though it's dark comedy which gets blacker as it goes along.
The not-so-good stuff in this movie all revolves around the obvious fact that writer/director Shem Bitterman came up with a lot of separate bits of story instead of a single narrative. The Job is an awful lot of this, that and the other, where no one ever asked "What does this mean, how is it connected to that and in what way are they both related to the other?" For example, there's a scene where Perriman shows up with an ax in tow. It doesn't fit the character. It doesn't fit the situation. There's no logic to it at all. On stage, you might be able to get away with it as a sight gag or a symbol. On screen, it just sticks out as something which makes no sense. And if you watch the facepalmingly lame alternate ending on the DVD, you'll realize that writer/director Bitterman never had a solid of idea of what this story was supposed to be about. I mean, there's this thing about Bubba's childhood involving a puzzle and a disemboweled dog that Bitterman evidently thinks is really important, but it leads nowhere and is so out of tune with everything else in the script that it feels like the product of an incredibly involved spasm of Tourette's syndrome.
If you're a fan of any of the lead actors, this is definitely something you should see. If you're a fan of acting in general or are just in the mood for some grim amusement, it probably deserves a look. If you hate films that sputter to muddled and somewhat pretentious conclusions, maybe you should keep looking.