Synopsis: A teenager’s weekend at a lake house with her father takes a turn for the worse when a group of convicts wreaks havoc on their lives.
Stars: Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Amanda Brugel, Robert Maillet, Joel McHale
Director: Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion
Running Length: 100 minutes
TMMM Score: (2/10)
Review: When I was in my early 20s, I accompanied my parents on a trip to Las Vegas where we gambled, hit the buffets, and saw some shows. It being our first time in the city, we did all the things the tourists do and by the time the week was drawing to a close, all my parents wanted to do was to take a night off and relax in the room. I wanted to see one more Vegas show so I grabbed a last minute ticket to some random extravaganza playing at one of the off-brand hotels. Sitting in my seat, I couldn’t believe my luck when before the show an announcer came on to tell the audience that going on between acts would be Kevin James! Wow! The King of Queens himself! I waited through the dreary first half only to find out that a) it wasn’t the Kevin James I thought it was and b) this Kevin James was a lousy magician.
You’d understand, then, why I was trepidatious when reading the plot summary of Becky which listed Kevin James as an escaped neo-Nazi prisoner that terrorizes a family. I mean, surely this time it really wasn’t the same guy, right? Could the magician have gone into acting or was this really the funnyman known for his comedy turns on television and a string of half-hearted attempts to be a movie star? Was James making a play for a more hardened character, distancing himself from the silly Adam Sandler umbrella he’s stayed safely under for more than a decade? Admirably, Becky shows a new side of James but unfortunately for him the performance is part and parcel of such a repugnant film that the effort hardly seems worth noting.
Ever since her beloved mother died, Becky (Lulu Wilson, Annabelle: Creation) has had trouble adjusting to the new normal. Her father Jeff (Joel McHale, The Happytime Murders) has tried to let his emotional daughter have her space to grieve but he’s decided to take steps to move forward, announcing his engagement to single mother Kayla (Amanda Brugel, Suicide Squad) at the start of what was supposed to be a father-daughter weekend at the family lake house. Annoyed at the arrival of Kayla and her young son, Becky storms off to her tree fort in the woods…right about the time escaped prisoners Dominick (James, Pixels), Apex (Robert Maillet, Pacific Rim), and a few of their old friends show up on the hunt for an item stashed away.
As the audience, we’ve already seen the extent to which Dominick will go to get his way after his bloody flee from custody and a grisly crime that’s thankfully only hinted at. He may have met his match, though, because Becky is an easily aggressed powder keg waiting to blow and doesn’t take kindly to the violence she witnesses going on in her home. Thus begins less of a cat and mouse game but something more akin to two lions circling one another, with each devouring anything less important that gets in their way. Becky uses her problem solving quick thinking and knowledge of the area to her advantage while Dominick relies on brute force to draw her closer, leading to a blood-soaked showdown.
The movie I’m describing sounds like an appealing and clever home invasion thriller and I bet the script from Nick Morris, Lane Skye and Ruckus Sky had some snap to it when it was originally conceived. It wouldn’t be hard to sell me on a Home Alone meets survival horror movie but it’s a question of taste that has to be examined. Under the direction of Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion Becky is about as repulsive an endeavor as you’re likely to see in 2020. The bad taste on display is so egregious, from violence against animals to violence against children, it’s just absolutely no fun to watch and not even that fun to write about after the fact. I’ve seen enough of these types of films to know that I don’t need to watch one that involves grown men beating up underage kids and killing pets – is that the kind of entertainment we’ve found ourselves craving and wanting to celebrate as a good time?
Honestly, it doesn’t help matters that Becky herself is awful – rude, dismissive, stubborn, and nihilistic, it goes beyond the typical beleaguered teenager and invites you to not so secretly want to root against her. There’s the suggestion that maybe Becky has an evil streak in her as well, but no one involved behind the scenes was thoughtful enough to explore that more intriguing side to the character. You get the feeling Wilson was trying to give her a sinister edge that wasn’t entirely on the page, but it’s largely silenced by Milott and Murnion’s glee for gore. Instead of finding moments to see deeper within Becky’s psyche, we’re treated to another horrific bit of sleaze, often involving a sharp object and viscera.
Having two comedians (McHale and James) in dramatic leading roles also gives the movie a strange imbalance because there’s a sense of waiting for one of them to break during the deadly serious scenes. McHale just isn’t cut out for dramatic acting and even his comedic turns are skating on thin ice, at least James does something with his part that feels like some homework was put in. It’s not a revelatory performance but it’s a fine effort that should be noted and explored in further films down the line. If the other supporting players offer little in terms of surprise, it’s only because there isn’t much space allotted to them seeing that Becky and Dominick suck up the air from most scenes. Let’s also not forget that the entire movie hinges on Dominick being after something (I won’t reveal what) that makes precious little sense to anyone but him. That all these characters should be swept up in the nonsense simply adds to the pointlessness of the whole exercise.
I felt really gross watching Becky and if it was something I’d casually picked out on Netflix, I probably would have turned it off twenty minutes in. While I like the concept of what the script had laid out, it skewed too young and overly irresponsible for me and that left it feeling vacuous, like an experiment that failed to meet its potential. It’s bloody and it’s brutal so gorehounds will likely sniff this one out fairly quickly, but will the connoisseurs of revenge thrillers go for a film served up with such foul ingredients?