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On VOD: BECKY (2020)

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BECKY
(US - 2020)

Directed by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott. Written by Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye and Nick Morris. Cast: Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Joel McHale, Amanda Brugel, Robert Maillet, Ryan McDonald, James McDougal, Isaiah Rockcliffe. (R, 93 mins)

From Quiver Distribution, the company that brought you John Travolta's (for better or worse) unforgettable turn in last year's THE FANATIC, comes another exercise in stunt casting with BECKY. A Plan B when Simon Pegg backed out during pre-production--and perhaps inspired by his buddy Adam Sandler's stretch with UNCUT GEMS--the unlikely Kevin James goes full "like you've never seen him before" as Dominick, the leader of a quartet of psycho neo-Nazis who've escaped custody during a botched prison transport. With his shaved head and huge beard, and with a swastika on the back of his dome, James looks not unlike an alternate universe, white supremacist DJ Khaled, orchestrating a DESPERATE HOURS home invasion at a family's lake house where things are already fraught with suffocating tension. 13-year-old Becky (Lulu Wilson of Netflix's THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE) is acting out, having a hard time coping with her mother's death from cancer a year earlier. She walks all over her patient, nice-guy dad Jeff (Joel McHale), who tries to arrange a weekend getaway at the family vacation house. But things go south when his girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel) arrives with her young son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe) and Jeff ambushes Becky with the announcement that they're getting married. Becky runs off, leaving the three of them in the house and that's when Dominick comes knocking, along with Cole (Ryan McDonald), Hammond (James McDougal), and hulking brute-turned-morally conflicted gentle giant Apex (Robert Maillet).







It takes about five seconds for Dominick to invoke the German term for "pure bloodlines" and offer his unsolicited thoughts about the dangers of "mating with other breeds" when he sees Jeff and Kayla are an interracial couple. For reasons that are never explained, Dominick is obsessed with finding a specific key--one with the three-triangled Valknut symbol--that he believes is hidden somewhere in the house, and starting with one of the family dogs, they're willing to kill to obtain it. Dominick and his crew quickly realize there's a fourth member of the family and it doesn't take long for them to learn the hard way that they picked the wrong day to fuck with a rebellious teenager who's already pissed off at the whole goddamn world. Becky uses her wits and ingenuity to set traps and make weapons out of simple items--pencils, pieces of wood, some fishing wire--and improvises with others (an outboard motor, for instance) and starts taking out the neo-Nazi shitbags one by one in a variety of over-the-top, splattery ways.





BECKY is directed by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott, the same team behind the the 2017 militia-invasion cult item BUSHWICK. They utilize some interesting editing and cross-cutting techniques that give BECKY some stylish visual flair in the early going, and as far as high concept pitches go, "HOME ALONE-meets-GREEN ROOM" could work. Plus there's some hard-R mayhem here that will make even the sturdiest gorehound cringe (seeing James take a pencil to the eye and try to cut off his own dangling eyeball is probably not something most KING OF QUEENS or PAUL BLART fans are prepared to witness), but BECKY doesn't quite stick the landing. To his credit, James is the easily best thing here and he's playing it completely straight, creating a credibly menacing and thoroughly repugnant character. Likewise, Wilson does a nice job of conveying grief manifesting itself as seething rage being fired in all directions, but we don't really learn enough about her (other than her ability to shoplift gummy worms from a convenience store) to buy that she's suddenly able to Kevin McAllister a bunch of booby traps in the woods. The generally serious lead performances then, are in service to a splatter film that just gets sillier as it goes along, with Dominick's eventual comeuppance seeming more appropriate for a goofy Troma movie. The Valknut key is a MacGuffin that vaguely hints at some kind of supernatural power by the time the coda rolls around, with an ambiguous final shot that ends things on a frustrating (read: dumb) note. Of course, it has an aggressively "Carpenter-esque" synth-throb of a score, which we're apparently not done doing yet despite that particular homage being way past its sell-by date, and the climactic showdown between Becky and Dominick plays out in almost total darkness, illuminated only by the flames of a small campfire, making it extremely difficult to see what's going on. BECKY certainly isn't dull and it's worth a look as an impulse Redbox rental or eventual Netflix stream, but I never thought I'd find myself wishing a movie put forth greater effort to get itself on Kevin James' level.


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