If you’ve been on any movie sites of late, you may have heard whispers about “that movie where Kevin James plays a Nazi” or “Paul Blart plays a scary white supremacist fighting a teenage girl in the woods”. There’s high concept, and then there’s casting an actor to play so hard against type that it forces you to look at them in a different light; that’s this movie. Becky is an angry, nasty bit of violent cinema that is as exhilarating as it is frustrating.
Lulu Wilson (Annabelle: Creation) plays Becky, a troubled girl trying to navigate the already volatile world of adolescence while mourning the death of her mother. Her father, played by Joel McHale (Community), is taking her out to the family cabin to get away from it all but he has an ulterior motive; he intends to break the news that she’ll soon have a new stepmom and stepbrother. Becky takes it as well as can be expected from an angry, confused, depressed teenager, but the family drama is interrupted when a group of escaped convicts, lead by the aforementioned Kevin James, show up and take them hostage.
Becky (the film, not the character) makes two big promises to its audience; the first is that Kevin James will play a scary neo-nazi. Fortunately, the film delivers on this in spades. Kevin James plays the role of Dominick with a low-key, quiet menace; rarely rising above a calm, measured cadence even when committing acts of heinous violence. It’s legitimately unnerving to witness and many scenes are stolen with quiet intensity. As Becky, Lulu Wilson projects equal parts vulnerability and volatility; from the moment we meet her, we know that she’s a powder keg whose explosion will be as bloody as it is inevitable. Also playing against type is Joel McHale as Becky’s widower father, Jeff. While not as much of a stretch as what Kevin James is bringing to the film, McHale tones down his usual snark in favor of a more subdued character who is visibly frustrated that he’s not doing better at connecting with his daughter.
The movie’s other big promise is that Becky will eventually reach the end of her rope and go on a nazi killing spree to save her family. Said killing spree makes sparing but effective use of extreme carnage. The special makeup effects and gooey sound effects are suitably gross and help to make any asides into dark comedy that much darker. The violence is grim, gritty and unpretentious; providing a catharsis for both Becky and the audience. Despite being as gleefully violent and gory as the you’d expect, this is also where the film’s major shortcoming becomes most obvious. In a world where most films regularly blow past the two hour mark, Becky’s 93 minute runtime is just too slight for its own good.
It might sound strange, but it feels like 10 to 15 minutes of the movie are just MISSING. Despite the excellent performances, we don’t get enough time with the characters (aside from Becky, herself) to really connect with them. Dominick’s fellow escapees are reduced to henchmen in desperate need of characterization that could have made their comeuppance more satisfying. The nazi killing itself has multiple violent payoffs that never actually got setups. The best movies of this type (i.e. Home Alone, Die Hard, etc.) do a great job of planting seeds early in the film that lead to satisfying payoffs when things get heavy in the third act. That’s not to say it isn’t satisfying to see a teenage girl put on a cute beanie and kill some white supremacists, but it feels like it could have and should have been more satisfying.
Make no mistake, this film has a lot going for it: beautiful cinematography, great performances, excellent editing and a great cinematic voice. It’s obvious that the film’s shortcoming was more due to its tight budget and not the talent behind it. Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion have created something truly impressive here, and will someday be working with a budget that reflects their talent and ambition. There’s so much great about this movie, its only failing is that is isn’t longer.
Becky stars Lulu Wilson, Joel McHale and Kevin James, and is now available on Digital and VOD from Quiver Distribution