Review: HBO’s faux doc ‘7 Days in Hell’

7 Days in Hell isn’t nearly as long as the title suggests. A mere 43 minutes, it feels more like a long Saturday Night Live sketch than an HBO movie. However, you wouldn’t want it any longer because it packs a swift serve of laughs in such a tight set.

Before they get to the actual match, the film directed by Jake Szymanski takes a look at the background of the two contenders that competed in the greatest tennis match of all time.

First, there’s Aaron Williams (Andy Samberg), the hot-rod who gets reverse Blind Side-d when the Williams family (yes, Serena and Venus) adopts him. Think John McEnroe on PCP (sometimes literally). In fact, tennis greats like Serena, McEnroe, and Chris Evert appear as themselves in the film to comment on Williams’ rise and fall. After accidentally killing a guy with a 174-mph ball in a match, Williams goes MIA, before resurfacing in Sweden as the inventor of a special underwear that lets it all hang out, so to speak. Unfortunately, the underwear causes infertility and elephant testicles in men, and Williams faces legal trouble because of it. In one of the funniest moments of the film, the commentators go into great detail about a courtroom sketch artist and his avante-garde work that changed the genre of courtroom drawings.

7 Days in Hell is really Samberg’s game, though. Kit Harington (better known as Game of Throne’s Jon Snow) is more of a spectator. His storyline as the indubitably thick-headed Charles Poole falls flat compared to Aaron Williams, with a domineering mother (Mary Steenburgen, who isn’t given enough to do). Although the frequent voicemail threats (that turn into a physical altercation in an elevator) from Queen Elizabeth are pretty hilarious.

While most of the real-life interviewees in this film ace their returns (surprisingly David Copperfield is a standout), not all of them work. Lena Dunham’s role as a Jordache executive feels like Hannah Horvath with a Rod Stewart wig on. One would have liked to have seen her a little more out of her element like Michael Sheen, who plays the smoldering TV host of Good Sport that mentally molests Charles Poole.

When the film actually gets to the match is where the movie especially shines. Anything, and everything, ensues, including an orgy, a broken limb, and a coke binge (Samberg snorting the white lines as coke is an image you won’t forget).

Why this film was made isn’t clear (maybe to give Jon Snow something to do in his off-season from GoT). But for whatever the reason, it’s a creative take on sports documentaries and the bombastic nature in which commentators speak about historic games. And you don’t even need to love tennis (or Andy Samberg) to appreciate it.

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