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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Sausage, eggs over easy, and pancakes. Hold the toast.

Small Engine Repair on IMDb

Plot Overview

mom, dad, babyFrank Romanowski, Terrance Swaino, and Packie Hanrahan grew up together in Manchester (Manch Vegas,) New Hampshire. Now in their 30s they are yet mentally regressed. In the third grade Frank's grand­mother made them flapjacks in the morning, at age ten they snuck some scotch into the woods after a base­ball rout, in the fifth grade Swaino got sick at a sleep-over in Frank's back yard, after puberty Frank knocked up their erstwhile friend Karen Delgado in a Hampton Beach bath­room. She was “like Humpty Dumpty, always needing some­thing fixed,” so Frank got custody of their girl Crystal. Young Crystal made her own pancake while Frank was in the joint for defenes­trating some flirtatious fellow.

wreathLife moves on, but as author Andrew H. Vachss wrote, “You can walk out of prison and promise your­self you'll never be back, but it's not such an easy promise to keep. You always take some of the joint with you when you go” (89.) At Christmas­time some dozen or so years later, the boys split up when a bar fight got out of hand. Come college age for Crystal she sends out a notorious “pancake pic.” Now the boys are getting back together again for a barbecue. Pack brings the sausage, and Karen encourages them to all “work together” to avoid Frank going back inside.

College News


man and child“Small Engine Repairs” follows the course of a curious maxim in the wisdom books, (Eccl. 4:13-14) “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished. For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.” Crystal (Ciara Bravo) is a “poor and wise child.” She's young and characterized as “just a poor girl from Manch Vegas” whose family is “clinging to the last branch of the lower middle class.” But she's wise enough to gain early acceptance to the college of her choice, to wrap the adults she's close to around her little finger, and to navigate social media better than her dear old dad. Her father Frank (John Pollono) is master of his own fiefdom. He owns his own business, has custody of his daughter, and is top dog in his little circle of friends. If there were any doubt about this last, they remove it by discussing the size of their respective dogs. Frankie is the alpha dog, Swaino (Jon Bernthal) is the beta dog, and Pack (Shea Whigham) is the hot dog. They can't get Frankie to curb his temper, and prison didn't make him better but worse. A very out­going Crystal finds her­self dumb­struck as her growing pains dampen her enthusiasm.

Okay, but so what? Why is that even in the Bible, and what does this have to do with any­thing? SER opens with an alternate name for Manchester being Manch Vegas and closes with nicknaming a basket­ball star Las Bodomy—you have to see the pic. There's a PICTIONARY game on the shelf of the lawn mower shop and a board game open on the table in the clubhouse. These guys are nothing if not word­smiths. When Frank objects to his friends calling Karen “cunt,” they ask him what should she be called: “bitch … whore … skank?” The issue for Frank is to show some respect to the mother of his child, even though she'd abandoned her.

Merry Christmas

treeChristmas day is even more telling. First Crystal advises Frank to wear some­thing less drab than his work clothes for Christmas dinner. He puts on a brighter shirt. Swaino remarks at the table, “Nice shirt, Frank. Make that for men?” Crystal, with her face framed by the back­ground Xmas tree lights, declaims on “the guy who makes one too many gay jokes.” Ha, ha. She's talking about gay as meaning brightly colored, but, no, it was a “homophobic” dig. Here we have a case of a word changing, if not its out­right meaning, then the frequency of usage of its senses over time.

George Willison writing of the colonial Pilgrims says that, “Unlike their Puritan neighbors at Boston, with whom they are so often confused to their disadvantage, they passed no laws against ‘gay apparel’” (8.) Back in the day when colorful (i.e. gay) clothing would have been controversial in those parts, the above discussion about gay jokes would have recognizably referred to wardrobe coloration. Homo­sexuality was unmentionable, indeed it was a capital offense and calling it gay unheard of. “Gay apparel” has come down to us in a Christmas song, “Don we now our gay apparel/ Fa, la la la la.” With the gay lights behind Crystal, that's what I was thinking of.

Gay definition header They repair to a bar where Karen greets them in the parking lot with, “How are you faggots doing?” Inside the bar itself some stranger remarks on the “faggot's shoes.” See, we have a vocabulary that can accommodate homosexuality, even on a wardrobe level, without using the word “gay.” Sure, such words don't convey respect, but since homos cannot produce off­spring they don't need such a respectful term as for Karen who can & did. The King's English in its younger days was wiser than now in its maturation, and prison doesn't help get our minds off perversion with its rumored anal rape. Even though gay is now the dominant term—king—for homosexual, it's not the best one in this context.

How that relates to the Bible is (James 2:1-4) where we are told in the King James Version (KJV) that “gay clothing” should not be an occasion to preferential treatment. I'm not sure how the more modern versions put it, but I'm pretty sure they don't say “gay.” Vachss's prophet says, “God gives the word—mortals interpret the word of God. There is more than a single version of the Bible, and for good reason” (146.) That is consistent with Paul writing, (1Cor. 11:19) “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” It's by comparing the various versions with each other that we get a better sense of the best rendering, which is not necessarily, as we see here, the one with the most current usage.

Production Values

” (2021) was written and directed by John Pollono, based on a play by the lead actor John Pollono him­self. It stars John Pollono, Shea Whigham and Jon Bernthal. Their acting was excellent as was that of the whole cast.

MPAA rated it R for pervasive language, crude sexual content, strong violence, a sexual assault, and drug use. It was filmed in Yonkers, New York, USA. It's 1 hour 42 minutes long.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

Having a sole, competent person do the writing, directing and chief acting resulted in a coherent picture that's wickedly clever. The orchestral music topped it off by ratcheting up the tension just right. It's heavy drama sprinkled with biting sarcasm ending in work­shop violence. Here is a movie experience not to be missed.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action at the conclusion. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, print.

Vachss, Andrew H. Flood. Copyright © 1985 by Andrew H. Vachss. New York: Donald I. Fine. Print.

Willison, George F. Saints and Strangers. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1945. Print.