Becky is the latest offering from the directorial team behind Cooties and Bushwick. How well does its bloody blend of humor and violence work?
Becky is yet another chameleon-like offering from Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, co-directors of the horror-comedy Cooties and the deadly serious Bushwick. I give these guys major credit: even when their films aren’t entirely successful, they always deliver in terms of the unexpected.
While Becky traffics in some familiar storytelling beats of the home-invasion-horror subgenre, it has a couple unique traits that make it worthwhile.
The film made some waves in the trailer stage for its casting of Kevin James as escaped-convict neo-Nazi Dominick, who takes mixed-race couple Jeff (Joel McHale) and Kayla (Amanda Brugel) hostage. Grading James on this performance alone, it’s impressive enough that I could see him succeeding in more dramatic roles (full disclosure: I haven’t seen King of Queens or any of his feature comedies). Perhaps he was thinking about frequent co-collaborator Adam Sandler’s recent accolades for Uncut Gems, and decided to “go dark” here.
With a swastika tattoo emblazoned across the back of his head, Dominick makes his prejudices known in nuanced ways (the screenwriters wisely avoid slathering the script with racial epithets). The tattoo seems indicative of two things: 1) that Dominick is unquestionably a Bad Guy; and 2) everybody hates Nazis. James is adequately menacing, but the script (by Nick Morris, Ruckus Skye, and Lane Skye) doesn’t go far enough with his character’s violent actions and hate-clouded conscience. He’s not cuddly, but he’s also not in the same wheelhouse as Patrick Stewart in Green Room.
But that’s okay, because James – despite his transformation – isn’t the focus of the film. It’s called Becky and not Dominick for a reason.
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The plot kicks off with some interesting cross-cutting: as Becky (Lulu Wilson) is knocked to the floor and beaten by her peers, Dominick oversees an inmate being brutalized in a similar fashion in the prison yard. Becky and Jeff’s van-ride to their country estate is paralleled by Dominick and his cronies in an armored prison transport. The suggestion that Becky and Dominick are cut from the same cloth comes into focus early, often, and without much subtlety.
But where Becky gathers strength is in its presentation of a character who is young, lacking a fully-formed conscience, and struggling with a mix of sadness and anger at the loss of her mother. We’ve seen movies where teens give prospective step-parents the cold shoulder, only to reach a point of acceptance by the end. In an unsentimental way, this is no different.
Wilson’s depiction of the titular character is somehow mature in its lack of maturity. Becky is resentful of Kayla possibly taking the place of her birth-mother (a cancer casualty seen in brightly-lit flashbacks). From what we can gather of her school and home life, she’s a loner. I like the aside where Jeff offers to buy her some beef jerky (“your favorite”) at a gas station, but she opts for gummy worms instead.
But it’s the manner in which Becky responds to the situation – with an unrepentant yet resourceful rage that’s like a mix of MacGyver and the newer Rambo movies – that makes her character exceptional. I found it strangely endearing that no effort is made to justify or psychoanalyze her behavior. Maybe the moral of the story is: “never underestimate the destructive potential of a grieving kid.”
In certain ways, Becky is a strange synthesis of the over-the-top elements of Cooties (with some laughs amid the bloodshed) and the nuanced urgency of Bushwick. The merging of these disparate tones doesn’t always work here, but I can’t say I wasn’t sufficiently entertained for 93 minutes. And the whole thing is ripe with sequel potential. More Becky, please.
You can catch Becky on Amazon Prime and Google Play.
Have you seen Becky? Let us know in the comments.