Howerton Stands out in Rowdy MoneyBro Dramedy BlackBerry

The more time passes, the more it feels like the announcement of the first iPhone was the birth of a new world. It wasn’t the first phone that sold itself as a computer in your pocket, but it did define how we used phones – what they could be used for and, crucially, how a phone looked. It was a black, sleek, rectangular screen, a design so perfect that it has barely been innovated upon since. But the start of a new world can also mean the ending of others. And that’s why people only talk about BlackBerry in the past tense.

Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) runs a small tech company with his almost impressively laid-back friend Doug (played by the film’s director, Matt Johnson). A talented perfectionist, Mike’s ambitions are sandbagged by a lack of business know-how that sees him loaded with debt and at the mercy of a duplicitous client. His hopes lie in his invention called the PocketLink, a forerunner of the BlackBerry that combines a phone, a pager and a computer. We first meet him in 1996 as he fumbles through a pitch of his idea in front of businessman Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton). Jim is initially not impressed at all but later sees the potential of the PocketLink and comes onboard as co-CEO.

To those who know him from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Howerton’s physical transformation for the role, while not Christian Bale levels of dramatic and potentially ill-advised, is still eye-catching. Seeing the notoriously vain Dennis Reynolds looking all bald and paunchy is a square that your brain will find hard to circle at first, but once he starts throwing tantrums and yelling demands into people’s faces, you’ll know that not everything has changed.

Jim’s aggressive management approach immediately crashes up against Doug’s goofball attitude to work, with Mike finding himself caught somewhere in the middle. But as BlackBerry’s rise quickly becomes meteoric, success inevitably goes to Mike’s head (and, in the third act, his hair).


The story moves at a good pace, including enough tech jargon (e.g. server load limits) to not feel dumbed down but also putting in enough well-known bops and cultural references (e.g. Star Wars) to keep non-techy audiences engaged. Likewise, drama and comedy are balanced well, the film leaning more into one or the other as needed without letting them undercut each other. It plays out like a slightly relaxed episode of Succession, a comparison easy to make with the Succession-esque way the camera zooms into and jitters around our cast.

However, while the film is able to balance its elements well, none of them truly rise to the top. Baruchel and Howerton are engaging leads throughout, neither letting their characters devolve into the stereotypes they could so easily be, but at the same time the story never allows them to become more than what they seem. We know they want success but we don’t know what that success means to them, which means that it doesn’t hit as hard when it all inevitably falls apart.

The result is a film that holds your interest without becoming interesting. It ultimately succeeds in telling the entertaining rise and fall story, but its lack of innovation wouldn’t fly in the tech world.

BlackBerry comes to Irish cinemas October 6

Featured Image Credit