A film review by Craig J. Koban June 10, 2020

BECKY j

2020, R, 93 mins.

Lulu Wilson as Becky  /  Joel McHale as Jeff  /  Kevin James as Dominick  /  Amanda Brugel as Kayla  /  

Directed by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott  /  Written by Nick Morris, Ruckus Skye, and Lane Skye

I'm not a cinematic snob, nor a prude.  I like B-grade trash.  In the right circumstances, I really do.  And BECKY is most definitely the type of film that would be best described as retrograde and low rent drive-in theatre/grindhouse fare.  

But it also happens to be bad trash and an appallingly gory movie featuring adults doing unspeakable harm to kids...and one psychotic kid inflicting barbaric violence on many adults.  It also features Kevin James (yes, that one of PAUL BLART: MALL COP and I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY) as a loathsomely sadistic neo-Nazi criminal.  Now, I usually applaud it when actors completely work outside of their comfort windows, but I simply didn't find the KING OF QUEENS star credible in any way shape or form in this challenging and polarizing role.  James isn't the source of my biggest beef with BECKY, though.  If you exclude his obvious stunt casting, the rest of the film built around it is offensively grotesque and lacking in any redeeming qualities. 

Actually, to be clear and simple...I found BECKY to be thoroughly repellent.  I felt like I needed to take a shower after screening it.  

I'm sure that there will be an awful lot of viewers out there that will take merciless glee in watching a young teenage girl murder-death-kill her way through a variety of neo-Nazi scum (they do, to be fair, have it coming to them).  BECKY is trying, I guess, to amalgamate HOME ALONE with DIE HARD with a dash of HOSTEL, I SPIT ON YOUR GRACE and maybe STRAW DOGS to boot.  Most of those films mentioned aren't as tortuously infatuated with raw, stomach churning carnage as much as BECKY, with most of it being perpetrated by a girl just out of elementary school age.  There's nothing wrong with cheap sensationalism involving female protagonists in retrograde pictures (see REVENGE), but there's just something wholly unsavory about thrusting a child into the mix here.  It's more sickening in its sensationalism than cheaply thrilling, which makes BECKY come off as all the more mindlessly exploitative.  

 

 

Lulu Wilson (quite good here, all things considering) plays the titular 13-year-old kid, who has been dealing with mounting grief and anger over the death of her mother, who recently passed after a terrible fight with cancer.  Becky's dad in Jeff (Joel McHale), tries as best as he can to acclimate to life as a widow and a single father to a child that has deep resentment issues.  Realizing that they desperately need a relaxing vacation to mend their emotional wounds, Jeff decides to take his daughter to their lake side vacation home, but the father makes the categorical timing blunder of inviting his new girlfriend, Kayla (Amanda Brugel) and her son, Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe), along as well, which angers Becky to no end.  Infuriating her more is the bombshell news that Jeff lays on her at the dinner table: he has decided to marry Kayla.  Becky is set off into a rage and runs away to a nearby shed/fort on the property.  She just can't process this news at all. 

Complicating matters for everyone is the appearance of escaped convict Dominick (James, complete with shaved head and swastika tattoo on the back of it), who shows up with his other fellow Nazi brothers in Apex (Robert Maillet), Cole (Ryan McDonald) and Hammond (James McDougall).  They have come to Jeff's cottage to find a highly sought after object.  What is the object?  It's never quite revealed, but all that matters is that Dominick and his clan will kill anyone or anything (including dogs and children) to get it.  With Jeff, Kayla and Ty captured and threatened with death at every minute, the hidden Becky realizes that she must take matters into her own hands and...well...feels that she needs to kill every last one of these white supremacists.  Her methods of murder involve MacGyvered traps and weapons that would make Kevin McCallister blush with envy.  And these are not cute little gizmos that cause momentary and distracting pain.  Becky goes full-on Rambo here.  She eradicates Dominick's underlines one-by-one, building up to an inevitable showdown between the two. 

Where do I even start with BECKY?  Let's begin with James' inclusion here.  To be fair, so many silver screen comedians have achieved dramatic glory before, and I think that James is trying to make the career segue in the same manner that, say, his GROWN UPS co-star in Adam Sandler has done with past films like PUNCH DRUNK LOVE and last year's UNCUT GEMS to play someone unhealthily unhinged.  At face value, Dominick could not be anymore different than any previous funnyman that James has inhabited before, and I can certainly appreciate the actor's ambitions with tackling a role like this.  But Dominick is never really fully fleshed out in any compelling manner here as a vile protagonist, nor does James give him anything approximating psychological depth.  His performance is mostly about posturing and letting the makeup and costume do much of the talking, which leads to the character feeling pretty one-note and empty.  Equally wrongheaded is this villain's plan and the McGuffin that he eagerly seeks out.  BECKY thinks it's being sly, subversive, and crafty with keeping the details of it vague and off camera, but it all comes off as lazy and undercranked, leaving very little actual stakes on the table.   

Then there's this film's rampant bloodshed, most of which made even the seasoned and tough skinned filmgoer and critic in me wince and recoil throughout.  The more BECKY progressed and the more the film succumbed to deplorable torture porn levels, and with nearly all of the scenes showcasing a young teen leading the charge.  She just becomes a screaming killing machine without much rhyme or reason.  At one point, she stabs Dominick in the eye so forcefully that his eye gets pulled out of its ocular cavity and dangles loose outside of it.  There's another scene when she stabs another baddie over and over...and over again...with a broken off ruler.  A later sequence has Becky drive over the head and upper body of another convict with a riding lawn mower, after which time we're granted a borderline pornographic close up of the dead guy's mangled face and head.  Her use of vehicles doesn't end there.  She even employs a motorboat to slash and chop up one victim, leaving him looking like vegetables mushed up in a blender.   

It took five people to write and direct this film.  Let that settle in for a bit.  I suppose the makers were just trying to make a brainless splattergorium on autopilot that was designed to appease the darkest and sickest needs of some viewers out there, but there's just something revolting about them using a girl to vigilante slasher extremes.  What on earth were they trying to say here?  Honestly.   That Neo-Nazis are scumbags and bad?  That witnessing an unhealthily disturbed young girl killing vermin for 90 minutes is a good time at the movies?  Gee, thanks.  They also weren't making a girl power statement here, at least I hope.  The main issue is the Becky character herself.  She's initially introduced as angsty and in reasonable levels of heart aching pain over her dead mom, but there's nothing else in the way of meaningful depth to this youth...no explanation given to how she can kill so easily and indiscriminately...and no commentary on her grief and healing process.  Her only outlet for releasing tension and agony is to inflict as much malicious harm and pain on others in the most grisly ways possible.  Animalistic violence is her only solution.  There's simply no other insight into this person's sense of right and wrong or morality.  How depressing.  How very, very depressing.  BECKY is a nonsensically mean-spirited and dirty film.  And for those "entertained"  by it?  That's perhaps a larger, damning indictment of modern filmgoer tastes.

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