Saturday movie review: Ashby

Mickey Rourke is not a great actor. Though he's been in a few fine films, did fantastic jobs in them (THE WRESTLER, for instance), he's also had his share of stinkers (THEY CRAWL). Ever since seeing him for the very first time, though, in POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE, I've enjoyed watching him on big screens and small.

I used to chalk it up to his good looks and bad-boy swagger. His looks are long gone, it's clear. Too many punches in the face? Too much alcohol? Drugs? Plastic surgery? I know nothing of what happened there — I'm not a rabid fan or stalker, just an admirer — hence ignorant about his personal life.

And Rourke's acting? Well, it's still not great.

Yet, regardless of his looks, acting chops, or the quality of the film he's in, Mickey Rourke continues to mesmerize me — and my husband, too. Which is nice because the fact Jim enjoys seeing him as much as I do saved me explaining my excitement upon discovering a newish (2015) film featuring Rourke streaming on Netflix. My husband was just as game as I to settle in and stream ASHBY, a quirky dramedy starring Mickey Rourke, Nat Wolff, Emma Roberts, and Sarah Silverman.

Ashby movie on DVD

ASHBY is the story of 17-year-old Ed (Wolff), who's new at school, a little odd but outspoken, basically friendless. He's also smarter than the average football player but longs to join the team despite being a pacifist and hoping to avoid the violence typical of the game. Ed and his classmates are assigned homework in which they are to interview someone "older" and write a report on it. Ed selects his neighbor, Ashby Holt (Rourke), who turns out to be a retired hit man for the CIA who recently learned he has just a few months to live.

Ed and Ashby hit it off, Ashby filling a fatherly role for Ed, whose dad is egregiously MIA in Ed's life. Ashby advises Ed on avoiding bullies, his budding relationship with equally odd Eloise (Roberts), and befriends Ed's mom (Sarah Silverman). Ashby also tricks Ed into being an accomplice in a few murders... which doesn't sit too well with Ed.


Wolff and Rourke work well together, their antics quite amusing, their heartfelt moments rather heartwarming. Wolff plays one of the more interesting teen parts I've seen in years. Various goofy behaviors and mannerisms of his character make it seem that he likely does such things in real life. If not, he's a pretty darn good young actor. One time in particular, as Ed danced about the kitchen, annoying his mom, I couldn't help but see my middle grandson acting in exactly that manner (at age 5) — which, naturally, endeared Ed/Wolff to me even more.

Emma Roberts as Eloise makes a perfect match for Ed. She doesn't gush over the guy in squirrelly, squealing teen-crush fashion yet leaves no question as to her interest in Ed... and her pain resulting from some of his jerk moves.

Sarah Silverman can be over-the-top annoying at times. Not so in ASHBY. Her role as a single mom looking for love suits her. The role is relatively small yet resonant. She's a lonely mom trying to do what's best for herself and her kid.

And then there's Rourke. He plays Ashby with the tough-guy swagger you expect from Rourke, admittedly older and a wee bit less cool than he once was. Both Rourke and Ashby. He seemingly embraces his advanced age yet hasn't given up on rolling out some of the moves from his glory days. Both Rourke and Ashby.

ASHBY is a small film that may not win awards but it certainly won my heart. Jim's too. The quirky coming-of-age tale and equally quirky characters entertained.

And Rourke, as always, mesmerized.

My husband and I chuckled aloud at the following scene because the interaction was so unexpected. It's a great example, though, of the banter and friendship Ed and Ashby share throughout the film.

ASHBY (rated R "for language, some sexual material and violence') appeared in theaters in September 2015 and is now available on DVD and streaming services.