FILM REVIEW – BECKY. With Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Joel McHale, Robert Maillet, Ryan McDonald. Written by Nick Morris and Ruckus Skye & Lane Skye. Directed by Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion. Rated R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, and language. 93 minutes.
Out here in the fields
It’s hard to imagine a stranger mixing of genres than BECKY. It’s a cross between “Home Alone” and “Straw Dogs,” a violent R-rated thriller of a minor fending off criminals by herself. Those who go for this kind of vengeance story may be diverted, but it’s definitely not for the squeamish.
Surly teenager Becky (Lulu Wilson), having lost her mother to cancer, is unengaged in school and barely talking to her father (Ryan McDonald). It doesn’t help that her father has announced he’s remarrying. Becky runs out of the family vacation house to go and sulk, and that’s when four dangerous prison escapees arrive and take the father, and his fiancée and young son, hostage. They are led by Dominick, sporting a black beard and a shaved head, with a swastika tattooed to the back of his scalp.
What may grab your attention is that Dominick is portrayed by comic actor Kevin James (TV’s “The King of Queens,” “Paul Blart, Mall Cop”) in what’s being billed as his first dramatic role. He can be calm and rational, but he’s ruthless and will let not anything stop him from achieving his goal, recovering a mysterious item he had hidden at the house. How and why he did it and what recovering will achieve is never explained. It is, as Hitchcock would have put it, the MacGuffin – the plot-driving thing everyone in the film is concerned about that we should not pay so much attention to.
Dominick eventually discovers that Becky is nearby and has the item in question. What follows is a cat and mouse game where, one by one, the gang go after her, starting with Jeff (Joel McHale), who tries to convince Becky if she’ll just turn it over, they’ll go away. When the boy in “Home Alone” abused the two thieves trying to break into his house in slapstick fashion, Becky is playing for keeps. There’s an implication that, should there be a sequel, we’ll learn that in unleashing this violent side Becky is discovering her true self, but our concern here is with her surviving this home invasion.
Without revealing too much, her tactics may be justifiable but they are unpleasant to watch: blood flows, people are chopped to pieces and, in a scene even Quentin Tarantino may find to be a step too far, someone’s eyeball is dislodged. It says something about the movie rating system that this level of violence is rated R (under 17 allowed with parent or guardian) and not NC-17 (no one under 17 allowed, period). Consider yourself warned.
In terms of performances, young Wilson is effective as the moody Becky who is determined not be pushed around by these adults anymore than she listened to her father. Former wrestler Robert Maillet has some moments as the conflicted member of the gang, who warns Becky that he carries the burden of the lives he has taken. However, viewers familiar with James will be surprised that he can play such a malevolent character in contrast to the lovable schmoes he usually portrays. It’s often been noted that it’s easier for a comic to turn serious than for a dramatic actor to play comedy. His performance here won’t be on any Oscar short lists next year, but just might get other filmmakers to consider him in a new light.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.