Sick Mick and the Boys
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When you sit down to watch the average Hollywood feature, you generally know what to expect. You know the kinds of characters you’ll see, and you know how they’ll act. When you opt for a documentary, however, the playing field opens up, and you’ll get to meet unlikely leading men—like reformed bad boy turned world record contender Mike Charlton of director Jose Asuncion’s Sick Mick and the Boys.

Mike isn’t the usual Hollywood bad boy. With his lazy eye and his wild, gray hair, he looks more like a roughed-up Billy Bob Thornton than Colin Farrell. His past isn’t pretty, either. The Cleveland native spent much of his life in and out of jail—but then, after a prison cell epiphany, he decided to turn his life around. He cleaned himself up (well, kind of…), settled down with his second wife, Kay, and decided to accomplish his late father’s lifelong dream: to set a new land speed record.

  
 
But Mike wasn’t a rich man. He didn’t have millions of dollars or a team of engineers to help him achieve his goal. Instead, he had some willing friends, some bemused brothers, and a whole lot of determination. And with that—and a few sponsorship dollars—he built a jet-powered motorcycle.

Sick Mick picks up Mike’s story toward its end, as he’s preparing to take his jet bike to the Bonneville Salt Flats to go for the record. Even more than the process, though, the movie is about Mike himself—about his past, his present, and the sacrifices he’s made for his dream. By the time we catch up with Mike, his long-suffering wife has called it quits, and most of his friends and family members see his dream as a carefully-planned suicide. But Mike carries on, opening up to the camera about his life, his family, and his regrets.

And, really, it’s Mike’s story—and his honesty—that makes the film so fascinating. Mike isn’t a Hollywood leading man; he’s a real man. And, for that reason, his candid on-camera revelations are a pleasant surprise. There’s no real reason for Mike to open up about his mistakes, his father, or his undying love for his estranged wife—but he does it anyway. His monologues are generally pretty off-color, but he’s also funny and sweet and strangely, unexpectedly charming (despite the wild, crazy hair). And it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with Mike and his wacky band of misfits and hangers-on.

When it comes to Mike’s quest for the world record, the underdog story is somewhat anti-climactic, though it’s also unexpectedly inspiring. But it’s the honesty and heart—and the hilarity, too—that make Sick Mick and the Boys worth watching. Just like its unlikely hero, this entertaining documentary is full of surprises.


Ed. Note: Sick Mick and the Boys recently premiered at the Cleveland International Film Festival and is currently making its way to film festivals around the country. For more information, visit SickMickAndTheBoys.tumblr.com.

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