New from Every Movie Has a Lesson by Don Shanahan: MOVIE REVIEW: Becky

Photo courtesy of Keri Anderson and Quiver Distribution

Photo courtesy of Keri Anderson and Quiver Distribution

BECKY— 3 STARS

The tale-of-the-tape of Becky is as preposterous as the promised twisted violence that follows. In one corner, you have the middle-aged comedian Kevin James taking a dare for his first “dramatic role” as the escaped Neo-Nazi criminal Dominick. He’s hulking, tatted-up, bearded, and armed with stern rhetoric and an itchy trigger finger.  In the other corner, you have the titular Millennial 13-year-old played by Lulu Wilson of The Haunting of Hill House. She’s angry, mournful over the passing of her mother, and, due to the home invasion circumstances than transpire, motivated for every hell-raising level of vindication possible. Before Bruce Buffer screams into a microphone, who do you got in this cutthroat clash that hits VOD June 5th?

To introduce this unlikely showdown in Becky, the slick editing of Alan Canant (Hellion) builds an establishing parallel between the two future opponents. A prison yard fight is spun against a bully’s skirmish in a school hallway. The ordered lineup of convicts mirrors the packed spacing of desks in a classroom. Her cutoff jeans and combat boot fashion choices figuratively match the ankle shackles being placed on him. They practically snarl into the confines of their respective transportation traps in the form of a minivan for her and a paddy wagon for him.

LESSON #1: BEING THE INSTIGATOR OR THE WITNESS— In the cross-stitch of this opening, inferences can be drawn for which characters act and which ones react. Both Becky and Dominick witness their settings with eerily similar emotionless indifference. He provides shivs for killings. She shoplifts without a care in the world. Who will bring the brouhaha and who will boil it? It’s damn fun to find out.

Becky is a passenger on a forced lake house vacation with her widower father Jeff (fellow funnyman Joel McHale, also playing it straight). He has also invited his future fiance Kayla (Amanda Brugel of The Handmaid’s Tale) and son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe). Meanwhile, Dominick, and a trio of his follows (former wrestler Robert Maillet and TV actors Ryan McDonald and James McDougall) orchestrate an escape and descend on the rustic getaway looking for a MacGuffin item (a trinket key Becky holds dear from her mother) that requires them to keep witnesses alive who may know where it is.

The anarchic and amusing part is Becky doesn’t have that need whatsoever. Like Kevin McAllister before her and with far deadlier intent, she’s on her home turf and will just f–king kill you for even thinking about harming her family, teenage innocence be damned. Once the fight for survival is on, the violent obstacle course of wild encounters and jarring kills written by The Devil to Pay husband-wife team of Lane and Ruckus Skye and the debuting Nick Harris takes over set to the pulsating and edgy electronic score of Nima Fakhrara (The Signal).

LESSON #2: ANGER CAN BE USEFUL— Jeff implores Becky that she “can’t be angry forever” for losing her mother to cancer and watching him find a new love. He adds “you can’t take things that aren’t yours” and “stop before someone gets hurt” warnings. His non-doting daughter’s icy answer while munching on her five-finger-discount gummy worm prize? “Obviously I can.” This is anger Becky is not letting go anytime soon, and it’s going to become mighty useful in her life for a few hours. Screw measly angst.

LESSON #3: THE LETHAL RESOURCEFULNESS OF SCHOOL SUPPLIES AND OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT— What does a kid have against hardened cons? Just a bunch of knick-knacks, art supplies, and garage junk. Want to see what ingenuity and injury this girl’s anger can apply to such items. Pull up a chair. At the same time, taste the salt grains that matches a line in the movie that states “sometimes someone does something so stupid you have to stop them and ask WTF.”

LESSON #4: GIRLS ARE MEAN— If you must know, “girls” and “grisly” share five common letters where the extra “y” stands for “yowzers.” Eventually, Becky self-declares going from “bad” to “horrid” in the face of her crisis. That bedazzled denim jacket and backpack over Becky’s shoulders might as well be hidden wings for the Angel of Death.

LESSON #5: KILLING IS A STAIN— Murdering kids is hard. Combine a kill-or-be-killed scenario with that pent-up anguish of Lesson #2 and you have a bloody barrage in Becky. The idyllic is broken by the insane. Violence seen is dark damage done on the mind and and heart. Violence committed is even worse. That is the height this movie rises too above simply a cheap slasher.

For most clicking play on Becky from Bushwick directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, they were likely drawn by Kevin James playing far against type. He embodies this intimidating menace decently considering the material. James doesn’t overplay the part as a loud screwloose, favoring maybe two too many sermon monologues instead. They work when they need to, though sometimes his snake oil carries too soft of pleasantries to be fully and fittingly evil. The real evil is cuter, louder, and shorter.

Lulu Wilson is frighteningly voracious. Appalling as the acts are, somewhere underneath that flaxen mop so often lit and framed by The Half of It and Light From Light cinematographer Greta Zozula lies a twinkle of creativity in Wilson. The actress out there roughing it with stunts even did her own art (now how about that) featured in the sets and credits of Becky. As Lulu Wilson poetically taunts “There was once a little girl…” before marking her quarry, we can only help but be impressed by the brazen energy. Well, this little girl chopped our feet off with the socks still on. No blowing was required.

LOGO DESIGNED BY MEENTS ILLUSTRATED (#883)

LOGO DESIGNED BY MEENTS ILLUSTRATED (#883)

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