Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate."

Sword of Trust (2019)

Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Marc Maron, and Jon Bass star in ‘Sword of Trust’


Lynn Shelton’s low-key comedy “Sword of Trust” is one of the funniest films of the year, although it’s not trying to be.

The talented cast, led by comedian-podcaster extraordinaire Marc Maron who 80% of the time seems to be dressed in a plaid shirt, seems to be “winging it” leading to moments of unadulterated comedy.

Written by Shelton and Michael Patrick O’Brien (Pat the Pizza Guy in “Booksmart”), the film is centered on an antique sword that may be proof that the South won the Civil War. The heirloom was bequeathed to Cynthia (Jillian Bell) by her late grandfather, so with her partner, Mary (Michaela Watkins), she joins forces with a burnt-out pawnshop owner (Marc Maron) to unload the relic on the black market.

Cynthia and Mary were hoping for a large inheritance after Cynthia’s grandfather passed away. However, the only thing the lifelong Alabamian left his granddaughter is an antique sword that comes with a certificate of authenticity that shows it belonged to a Union general.

But this is not just any ordinary sword. The accompanying rambling letter and crude drawing from Grandpappy suggests that the Civil War relic is the only known evidence in existence that proves the South won the war. So, the couple decides to do what anybody would do with such a historically significant artifact – pawn it.

Next stop, a Birmingham pawn shop where the ladies try to convince the aloof owner Mel (the perfect name for Maron’s character) that the heirloom is worth a lot of money. “What you are looking at is a genuine relic that supports the actual truth, which is that the South won the war.” After sporting a sh-t-eating-grin, Mel responds with, “Seems like pretty big news,” and offers the couple $400. They reject the paltry offer but leave behind their contact info in case Mel comes to his senses.

Jon Bass plays Mel’s scruffy assistant Nathaniel, a flat earther and conspiracy theorist, who stumbles upon a bunch of YouTube videos by “truthers” who believe the South won the war. They are searching for that one artifact that will show the world they are right and will pay a hefty price to get it. Mel contacts Cynthia and Mary and along with Nathaniel, the four find themselves being transported in the back of a moving van to a secret location where a wealthy truther is offering to pay $40,000. As Mel points out, “This is definitely how people die.” FYI, the entire scene in the back of the van was improvised like probably many scenes by the four actors.

The plot takes the foursome deep into bigot territory, filled with characters named Hog Jaws (Toby Huss) and Kingpan (Dan Bakkedahl). Filled with acerbic wit and dry humor, “Sword of Trust” delivers some very funny moments only taking a respite from the comedy for a poignant moment that reveals Mel’s drug addiction past with his ex, Deirdre (played by Shelton), who shows up at the pawnshop in a moving scene.

Spending 89 minutes with these four actors is delightful and once again Shelton churns out another whimsical comedy. “Sword of Trust” is highly entertaining.

Up next for Shelton, a Hulu adaptation of the best-selling novel “Little Fires Everywhere” starring Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington and Rosemarie DeWitt.

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate.

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