BECKY [Film Review]: Nazi Killing Growing Pains.

“El Sacerdote” J.L. Caraballo Twitter @captzaff007

It is the year 2020, the country, for all intents and purposes, appears to be fully shut down and on fire and literally sick…but at least we can sit back, relax, and revel in a quartet of neo-Nazis get their asses violently and irreversibly handed to them in the blissfully violent Becky.

What starts off as what would otherwise be a nascent coming-of-age story of a young teenage girl becomes a treatise on how alluring violence and revenge can be. Oh, and there are some pretty spectacular and gory kills, and what would otherwise be considered stunt casting of Kevin James if the performance weren’t so unnerving…

Off for a weekend with her dad Jeff (Joel McHale) at the family cabin, Becky (Lulu Wilson) has hit that age where every single thing that her father says, does, or suggests is an insurmountable ordeal. Her mother has been dead for some time, and Becky’s grown resentful of her father and his relationship to his girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel), and her young son, Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe).

Usual teenage moodiness ensues, and Jeff reveals his intention to marry Kayla, and Becky runs off to hide out in the expansive treehouse deep in the woods behind the cabin with one of her dogs, Diego; therein she uncovers a key in a tin box: the key is heavy, rusted, and ornately designed.

Gummies!

Enter Dominick (Kevin James). He and tree of his cohorts had staged a break-out at a local penitentiary. Stealing a van and changing clothes, they drive right to the lake house, and hold Jeff, Kayla, and Ty hostage.

Dominick, as leader of the quartet, demands to know where to find a key…the very key Becky has uncovered and set in her backpack in her treehouse. Overhearing the hostage-takers via a two-way radio, Becky sets a series of traps, luring the gang out and dispatching them one by one in increasingly inventive and gory ways.

This family getaway could have gone smoother…

Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion keep the stakes well within reason: the villains want the key, plain and simple. What it leads to is unimportant, and, ultimately, never revealed. The slow burn of the first act is complimented greatly by the ferocity and brutality of the second and third. The casting of James (who’d replaced Simon Pegg, due to scheduling conflicts) as the leader Dominick was inspired, as he does a great job conveying the menace and cold callousness of the character.

The movie is not without its character moments, either: near the end of the first act, Dominick and his hulking henchman, Apex (Robert Maillet) lead Jeff outside in an attempt to lure Becky out of hiding. There, a back and forth ensues between Jeff and Dominick, the latter viewing himself as a father figure to his trio of followers; having given them purpose, he expects them to follow and trust him, as he feels they own him for being their leader. Jeff, on the other hand, knows that despite his shortcomings and failures, and despite everything he’d done for her, Becky owes him nothing, not even forgiveness. The dichotomy between the two views of parenthood was a nice moment in a movie that will otherwise be known only for its spectacle.

“Say it. Say your favorite movie is fucking ‘Paul Blart’. I DARE you.”

And what spectacle there is! Cinematographer Greta Zozula makes great use of the Burlington, Ontario lake location; the forest lush and seemingly endless, and the lake quiet and serene, yet ripe for violence. The violence gets this close to becoming an over-the-top parody (specifically a bit involving a massive lawnmower at the climax), but since it builds in outlandishness from the word go, it seems the escalation could have been much more jarring.

As it currently stands, though, the violent bits are wildly creative: first a stabbing with pencils, at another point the use of a motorboat engine, and one of the most traumatic and graphic eye injuries this side of Hostel (and that one came seemingly out of nowhere, fairly early on!). The novelty of seeing a teenage girl inflict such damage is never lost during the movie’s runtime.

“No. I HAVEN’T heard of ‘Bob’s Burgers. Why do you ask?”

But it is not without its flaws. The script (by Nick Morris, and Lane and Ruckus Skye) seems to ignore some of its own premises. Most glaringly, for all the hullabaloo of the antagonists being neo-Nazis, there is little done with that conceit. Aside from a brief, token remark about bloodlines and purity (and even then, it is in reference to Becky and Kayla’s respective dogs), and the tattoos on Dominick’s body and head, these could be any sort of villain. Especially given the casting of Kayla and Ty (the mother and son are Black), the ideology of the villains would probably mean something more if the script did something more with it, which would have made their comeuppance all the more satisfying.

As it stands, the villains shortcut their viciousness by instead attacking the dogs (yeah…it was expected but still sad). What’s that old adage in movie making? Never kill the dog. They’re immediately “evil” by that act, their underlying ideologies and personalities get lost in the shuffle of blood, which makes them mere fodder. Aside from Apex (who begins to question his beliefs almost immediately upon entering the lakehouse), the other two gang members are interchangeable and forgettable.

“Yippie-ki-yay, motherfu…damn! Wrong movie!”

The movie plays fast and loose with thematic callbacks: there are splashes of Home Alone (or, more appropriately, the more visceral and violent version, Dial Code Santa Claus) in some of the early traps Becky sets, and some bits of First Blood, and, most noticeably, Die Hard, with the violence hitting on a nearly Turbo Kid level of inventiveness and Hanna-level of composition…but without the fun. For what it is, the cast is solid: Lulu Wilson, fresh off of The Haunting Of Hill House, naturally carries the movie well, and while the character of Becky herself doesn’t have too much by way of subtext or personality (she basically goes into action mode and stays that way, very early on), she’s still fun to watch and you don’t stop rooting for her.

And, of course, Kevin James is the standout here. He’s menacing almost from the word go, and, given his formative years as a wrestler and football player, he’s believable in his physicality, although, again, his personality seems to be nothing more than rote neo-Nazi Leader. For what he’s given, he’s solid.

Maybe just take a…STAB…at it?! Eh?!…please don’t hit me…

So…is this worth a watch? Yes. If for some solid, brutal violent action, and two strong performances from James and Wilson more than anything else. For anything much more than that, there’s little to reach for here. It’s a messy, quick movie that gets in, does its job, and gets out. 3.5/5 Bunny Hats.

J.L. Caraballo

Becky is now available to stream via Amazon Prime.

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