REVIEW: Becky [2020]

Rating: 4 out of 10.
  • Rating: R | Runtime: 100 minutes
    Release Date: June 5th, 2020 (USA)
    Studio: Quiver Distribution
    Director(s): Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion
    Writer(s): Nick Morris and Ruckus Skye & Lane Skye

You can’t stay angry forever.

Becky (Lulu Wilson) is hurting. It’s been almost a year since her mother passed away from cancer and she’s yet to move on in part because her father (Joel McHale‘s Jeff) already has. So she acts out, drowns him out, and can’t wait to get out. Not only has he put the lake house that holds so many of her memories with Mom on-sale, he’s also become very serious with his new girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel) and her young son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe). The worst thing he could do right now is force this new life he’s building onto his daughter, but he does it anyway. If not for a quartet of just-escaped-from-prison, homicidal Nazis crashing the party, Becky may have simply run off without ever looking back.

Does this mean that it was a good decision to specifically foist Dominick (Kevin James), Apex (Robert Maillet), Cole (Ryan McDonald), and Hammond (James McDougall) upon them? Screenwriters Nick Morris, Ruckus Skye, and Lane Skye would probably say, “Yes.” They’ll say its random juxtaposition makes it intriguing and that having white supremacists as villains allows them to hire Brugel and Rockcliffe as POCs to allow them to be white supremacists in dialogue and actions when confronted by Jeff and Kayla’s interracial relationship. What they forgot to do, however, is make any of that relevant to the story at-hand. Making these guys Nazis has no bearing on the plot besides terrorizing two of their captives more than the other pair. Erase their tattoos and nothing actually changes.

The reason is simple: Becky isn’t Black. The character directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion focus upon as the self-ascribed Kevin McAllister of this depraved Home Alone riff never has to face what Dominick is beyond his ability to commit murder. Rather than be motivated by the hate group to which he belongs, she reacts because of what his men do to those she loves: Dad and dog Dora. Will she save Kayla and Ty in the process? Sure. Nothing on-screen necessarily says that’s the goal, though. When we go inside her mind before a violent act, we don’t see this new family she didn’t ask for. We only see the blind rage of a girl who wants to kill every last Nazi because she can.

Becky introduces this mindset from the start thanks to an act of shoplifting being met by Jeff saying, “You can’t keep taking things that aren’t yours.” before Becky replies with, “Obviously, I can.” It’s that attitude that may just save her, though. The reason Dominick arrives is because he’s hidden a key in the basement (no mention is given about how this came to pass or whether Jeff somehow bought his property). If Becky doesn’t steal this curio and place it in the fort she uses to escape family bonding time, they’d have been killed the moment he procured it. She took what wasn’t hers and bought leverage. And when Dominick pushes her to the edge of her own morality, she’ll take a life that isn’t hers too.

Once again, though, them being Nazis is inconsequential. Make it a lock box key to money. Make these hardened criminals regular old murderers looking to recover a big score before disappearing. Why? Because the moment you label them white supremacists is the moment audiences demand a reason. The key being a gateway to a pure America isn’t enough when we never learn any details about what that means. Kayla and Ty being Black isn’t enough when you leave them on the couch as helpless hostages. The only reason left is Becky. But since she’s not Black, it has to conversely be because she’s white. It’s because she’s the exact type of sociopathic person Dominick would recruit. Killing Nazis is no longer the point. It’s suddenly about becoming one.

And this can be okay if the film even briefly touches upon the volatility of whiteness. It would make sense if this was a commentary on race. But it’s not. There are some interesting elements about teenagers dealing with grief and a shoehorned subplot wherein Apex is like a “son” to Dominick (their Aryan Brotherhood being a constructed family unit similar to what would happen when Jeff marries Kayla), but nothing comes of any of it when the filmmakers are having too much fun creating revenge porn instead. Strip things down to an entertainment level for those who enjoy graphic and gruesome violence and there’s going to be a lot to like here. But the themes are superficial. Our investment is purely hedonistic. Race is but a gimmick.

That’s a bad choice in and of itself, but it’s made worse when placed against the backdrop of protests surrounding its release date. Lulu Wilson is great at shifting between emotionally vulnerable and psychologically sadistic and Kevin James is an inspired bit of casting as the formidable Dominick (give this man more serious roles), but their performances can’t overcome the whole’s misguided refusal to see that it’s minimizing a hot-button issue’s impact to use it as window dressing. You can play with story structure and leave things ambiguous as far as how Becky’s actions change her in the end, but someone has to learn something from its potential horror. If neither she nor we learn anything, it’s all just been an exploitative mess of genre tropes.

[1] Kevin James as Dominick in the thriller film “BECKY,” a Quiver Distribution and Redbox Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Keri Anderson.
[2] Lulu Wilson as Becky in the thriller film “BECKY,” a Quiver Distribution and Redbox Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Keri Anderson.
[3] (L-R) Joel McHale as Jeff, Isaiah Rockcliffe as Ty and Amanda Brugel as Kayla in the thriller film “BECKY,” a Quiver Distribution and Redbox Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Keri Anderson.

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