Directed By Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion
Starring – Kevin James, Lulu Wilson, Joel McHale
The Plot – A teenager’s (Wilson) weekend at a lake house with her father (McHale) takes a turn for the worse when a group of Nazi convicts wreaks havoc on their lives.
Rated R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, and adult language
– Against type performances. Coming into “Becky”, I worried that two cherished comedians like James and McHale would offset the gritty tone and harrowing atmosphere that much of the movie works hard to attain with R-rated sprinkling. Thankfully, both of their work casts them in respectively refreshing lights that will allow them to break typecast for the next phases in their careers. James is imposing, powerful, intelligent, and especially cunning when it comes to helming the film’s central antagonist. Even with as little depth or characterization that the character is saddled with, Kevin makes the most of the opportunity by feeling compelling with very little shouting, and illustrates what about him makes it easy to comprehend why his crew have followed him towards another Mein Kempf massacre. For McHale, it’s the chance to embody an admirably straight laced character who is every bit compassionate as he is brave, with often both of them coming back to bite the character viciously. There’s rarely scenes with both of them together, but it’s refreshing to witness them each lose themselves in their respective characters, all the while proving the depth that has alluded them opportunities to show to this point.
– Clever editing. Easily the highlight of the movie for me was the magic produced in the cutting and transitional sequences, which solidify the movie has some style to compliment its gritty substance. Right from the opening, the film simultaneously builds the worlds of the protagonist and antagonist fruitfully, focusing in on a similar coincidence that links them despite their surroundings being anything but similar. This allows the pacing to remain strong for the movie overall, because it doesn’t have to instill exposition to them separately, at the risk of feeling redundant. In addition to this, the creativity used during key transitional scenes, particularly that between character’s talking through radio, is equally unique for the way it closes in on their proximity. When one character speaks, the camera will slowly pan over to the other one about to retort, and the distance between each pan adjusts closer and closer each time, making three hundred feet feel like six because of some interesting choices made in post production that garner a lot of personality for the film’s aesthetic quality.
– Scintillating synth. The musical score composed by Nima Fakhrara, the brilliant mind who audibly entranced us with a hypnotically ominous echoing in 2014’s “The Signal”, returns with a yearning for hard-hitting synthesizer deposits that go a long way in expanding the anxiety articulating during key moments of movement between the characters. In a way, Nima’s riveting spells are a lucid throwback to 80’s entrapment films, complete with amplified volume and various echoing that single in on the isolation factor that dooms this family. The sound mixing takes a bit more liberties in volume than we’re typically used to, but I approve of it thanks in part to compositions that play and pace to the movement of the characters, creating an influentially malevolent series of refrains that that feel every bit as eager as the antagonists who rampantly march to them.
– High impact states. Even with a movie that pauses for the occasional burst of awkward humor between scenes of anxiety-riddled tension, the free-flowing blood and ruthless brutality that supplants much of the movie’s consequences is more lethal than anything I’ve seen since 2018’s “Revenge”. Even for a horror fan like me, the combination of hanging eye-balls, ruler stabbings, tractor mauling’s, and fire hot pokers were enough to make me wince more than a few times, and illustrated the evolution of violence within the movie that ages like a fine wine during the movie’s progression. When the film first begins, the blunt force trauma’s and permanence of blows are cut away from with very little documentation, but as the film grows with a more personal classification between sides, that bashful side of cinematography goes out the window, and soon we are treated to all practical carnage candy that tastes devilishly delicious with each passing taste.
– Absorbing sound. Similar to the articulation used during the movie’s musical score that I previously mentioned, the movie’s sound editing is used equally effective in maximizing the impact of each devastating impact. As to where a movie producing a scene that is deemed hard to watch is easily inescapable by covering your eyes, this movie’s sound levels and consuming microphone work offer no avenues of escape for what it audibly illustrates. It’s the kind of prestigious work where you can still see what is transpiring even when you aren’t looking, and prescribes so much extra emphasis for scenes that certainly don’t requires the crunch’s to sell their immersive energies. Watch this one with the biggest sound system that you can find, where only the mute button will save your soul.
– Captain carnage. As to where movies involving kids fighting back against their adult pursuers often requires stretching logic to skin tight levels, the titular character here feels believable because of a backstory that the movie takes its time vividly fleshing out. Without spoiling anything, the character has a tragic past that has left her emotionally frail and mentally unstable, so it loads the gun of retribution with the bullets of anger, and just waits for someone to unload all of it on. I do have problems with the outline and direction Becky’s character that I will get to later, but her personality makes her fierce, and her intelligence and understanding of home field advantage allow her to overcome any amount of size and strength disadvantage that never slow her down in the slightest, making her a lethal threat once she quite literally has nothing left to lose.
– Balls to the wall. Considering everything we had been through in the previous 80 minutes of this film, the screenplay still saves a few breathtaking moments for the final confrontation, which aren’t entirely predictable. I say this because even after the smoke clears and justice is served for one respective side, a tacked-on final scene hints that not everything is all’s well that ends well with this bittersweet finale. Even with so much uncertainty left on the table, the film’s final scenes left me riveted and completely glued to the screen, as the culmination of two well documented characters to that point comes full circle in a battle that left them both blemished. It’s the perfect blow-off to a painful mental chess game to that point, and didn’t stand out as the third act weakness that so many other films have been unfortunately saddled with in 2020. That alone made this a film that I would gladly re-watch someday.
– Unlikeable protagonist. It’s strange that even in a movie with a group of Neo-Nazi’s breaking into a family’s vacation home to attain a family secret, the teenage protagonist who we’re meant to cheer for is still the hardest character to side with. Wilson’s performance is decent enough. I blame this more on the direction, which over exaggerates on everything from whining, to being rude to her father, to delivering some line reads that are completely cringeworthy. I think for this character to even be a mute affected from a traumatic event from her past would be an improvement. Instead, we are left with a character who was five times more annoying than she was intriguing, keeping her one-note dimensional pulse a constant through 88 minutes of cinema that we wish we spent with literally anyone else but her.
– Framing device. Once again, “Becky” is another movie in a growing list that gives away the ending during the film’s opening scene. The only thing missing that would make this worse is if they added the proverbial “One day earlier” text that other movies unapologetically wrench to cliche levels of redundancy. This scene in the introduction adds nothing to the complexity of the script, nor does it do the movie any favors in attaining the kind of edge-of-your-seat cinematic experience that every movie is entitled to, but very few capitalize on anymore. Our fears are realized in the movie’s closing moments, where the entire scene and conversation is repeated for context, and now in the second go-around, only a line of dialogue is tacked-on in current day, giving us little justification for the gimmick that more times than not creates more problems than advantages.
– Unanswered questions. There’s plenty in this section, but I’ve narrowed it down to a couple that point to the screenplay’s biggest problems. For one, a plot device is introduced midway through the movie that gives reason for why this Neo Nazi clan have targeted this family. The problem is that it never leads to anything after it’s mentioned. No big reveal, no explanation what it even is besides its object form, and no weight of meaning once all of the smoke clears. It’s a subplot that literally goes nowhere, and that’s only the start of the questions. The next would be why are there even Nazi’s in this movie to begin with, besides being an obvious device to hate them and cheer for Becky? Very little is mentioned of their Nazi origins, they rarely if ever act like Nazi’s, and it’s yet another backstory device that goes literally nowhere in the foreground of the story. The conveniences and leaps of logic along the way are also a bit much for me to swallow the doubt, but it’s the questions that bother me more, and take away tremendously from what was otherwise an entertainingly invigorating experience.
My Grade: 7/10 or B