Movie Review: Hulu’s “Self Reliance” is a Hilarious Thriller That Will Have Your Head Spinning

If you want more Nick Miller, look no further. Jake Johnson makes his feature film directorial debut with Hulu’s upcoming original Self Reliance. In addition to directing, he stars in a role that features a lot of the same characteristics of his beloved sitcom character, including the trademark humor we’ve come to expect from Johnson. But make no mistake, this film is anything but a straightforward comedy.

When a middle-aged man (Johnson) is invited into a limo by famous actor Andy Samberg, his dull life takes a thrilling turn. Johnson is offered a chance to win a million dollars in a dark web reality TV show, where assassins from all over the world attempt to kill him for 30 days. The catch? He can’t be killed if he’s not entirely alone, leading him to recruit an unlikely team to help him survive.

Now, while this film is so much more than just a comedy, it is downright hilarious. In fact, it’s probably one of the funniest movies some time. The ridiculous scenarios concocted by Johnson will have the audience laughing constantly as the movie goes more and more off the rails in the best possible ways. It’s not going to be a movie you quote for years to come, but the hilarious reactions to all of those crazy situations are sure to draw some big laughs.

And the cast deserves a lot of the credit on that front. Johnson is of course hilarious, but it’s the cast around him that takes this movie to the next level. Dozens of those hilarious reactions come from Emily Hampshire in a small role, Mary Holland and Daryl J. Johnson deliver plenty of laughs of their own and of course Andy Samberg gives a very believable performance… as himself. The surprise standout though, was Biff Wiff, who plays Johnson’s hired best friend. Again, he may not have a ton of memorable lines or jokes, but his performance will have you laughing throughout.

And of course, Anna Kendrick is as charming and funny as ever. Beyond the comedy though, Kendrick and Johnson share a romantic chemistry that adds a certain depth to what easily could have been a wacky slapstick comedy. If the role had been played by anyone other than Kendrick, it likely would have felt like a forced love interest and fallen flat, but she perfectly matches the energy of this film and makes it that much better.

And then there’s the other side of this movie. Yes, it is a comedy and it is hilarious, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that this premise features people hunting the main character and trying to kill him. That adds a level of suspense to the entire movie and brings elements of horror and a psychological thriller. In fact, there are several moments where it feels like the latter is going to completely take over and the movie will switch gears.

The film even hits the trademark of a good psychological thriller: it keeps you guessing throughout. You’ll find yourself wondering who you can trust and sitting on the edge of your seat during some brief horror movie moments. And all of that occurs between big laughs. The film manages to strike a seemingly impossible balance that somehow just works on all fronts. Even the score feels like it is right out of a horror film.

Overall, Self Reliance is a hilarious, beautiful, touching, creepy, goofy, suspenseful great time. It somehow manages to be all of those things and still run smoothly, thanks in large part to its incredible cast. There are elements of a psychological thriller that will keep you guessing what’s going to happen the entire time, but you’re also going to be laughing throughout so you don’t even really care what happens. This is a must watch for anyone looking for a laugh, especially if you’re a fan of Jake Johnson.

Self Reliance debuts Friday, January 12 on Hulu.

Mike Mack
Mack is the Editorial Director for Marvel and ESPN content and he has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed "nerd."