Becky (2020) Movie Review

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Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott’s violent thriller stars Lulu Wilson, Joel McHale and Kevin James.

You’ve seen Kevin James play a Queens delivery man, a mall cop, a retired cop, a biology teacher turned MMA fighter, a zookeeper (in Zookeeper), the president of the United States, an animated Frankenstein, and a straight firefighter pretending that he’s gay.

But it’s fairly certain that you’ve never quite seen him as he is in Becky, a stylish and very gory home-invasion thriller from the directing duo of Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott.

Sporting a beard worthy of the Duck Dynasty crew and a collection of Nazi head tattoos, James plays the leader of an Aryan Brotherhood-like prison gang who escapes from jail and terrorizes a family at their lake house over much of the film’s running time. In one stomach-churning sequence, James’ character, named Dominick, is forced to slice through his own ocular nerve with a large kitchen knife.

Such carnage, dished out in ample doses, tends to be the highlight of an otherwise passable B-grade exercise in tension, torture and human endurance. Originally selected for the Tribeca Film Festival, the movie will premiere online June 5 courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

The titular heroine, played with verve by 14-year-old Lulu Wilson (a breakout in Annabelle: Creation), spends most of the story fending off Dominick and his band of convicts as they do damage to her dad (Joel McHale of Community) and, perhaps even worse, to her dogs. Fueled by high levels of teenage angst brought on — in a rather easy screenwriting ploy — by her mother’s recent death from cancer, Becky is set to take the earrings off and take down the baddies, finding some cleverly cruel ways to exact nasty revenge on each one of them.

Murnion and Milott, who previously helmed the slick low-budget actioner Bushwick, show off their stylistic chops from the opening credits, match-cutting between Dominick and his cohorts (Robert Maillet, Ryan McDonald, James McDougall) making their prison break and Becky and her dad driving out to the film’s secluded setting. When they get there, Becky finds out that her father’s new girlfriend (Amanda Brugel) is also a guest, putting a damper on the daddy-daughter bonding. Soon enough, the jailbirds show up in search of a mysterious key hidden somewhere inside the house, and hell follows them in ways both violent and predictable.

Becky tends to work best when it revels in the blood-splattered set pieces of its script (written by Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye and Nick Morris), going that extra mile and a half in the gore department (special effects makeup was by Karlee Morse) to create some truly disgusting moments, albeit ones that are laced with a grim sense of humor.

Deadly objects include a metal skewer used to toast marshmallows, a ruler, a motorboat and the aforementioned key. Dogs are beaten and shot at, and the felons experience varying levels of bodily harm at the hands of badass Becky, who goes full Rambo during much of the second half. It’s all devilish fun that doesn’t amount to much — if not a rather crass display of girl power and extreme vengeance.

The casting of James as a psychotic but not entirely stupid neo-Nazi turns out to be both the movie’s distinguishing characteristic and something that tends to cut the credibility factor in half. No matter how hardcore he tries to look with his tats and deep stares, James just doesn’t seem like someone who adheres to the doctrines of the Third Reich. He’s more like a nice guy pretending he’s sick, which is maybe how Dominick really feels deep down inside, but Becky never offers the psychological insight to take us there.

Production companies: Yale Productions, Boulderlight Pictures, in association with Bondit Media Capital, Buffalo 8, SSS Entertainment, SSS Film Capital
Distributor: Quiver Distribution (VOD)
Cast: Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Amanda Brugel, Robert Maillet, Ryan McDonald, James McDougal, Joel McHale
Directors: Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott
Screenwriters: Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye, Nick Morris
Producers: Jordan Yale Levine, Jordan Beckerman, J.D. Lifshitz, Raphael Margules, Russ Posternak
Executive producers: Shaun Sanghani, Berry Meyerowitz, Jeff Sackman, Lawrence Greenberg, Galen Smith, Matthew Helderman, Luke Taylor, Joe Listhaus, Robert Levine, Phyllis Levine, Michael J. Rothstein, Roz Rothstein, Steth Posternak, Rohan Gurbaxani, Gigi Lacks, Kevin Debold, Stephen Morgenstern, Tara Martin, Kurt Ebner, John Hickman
Director of photography: Greta Zozula
Production designer: Melanie Garros
Costume designer: Muska Zurmati
Editor: Alan Canant
Composer: Nima Fakhrara
Casting directors: Jenny Lewis, Sara Kay

Rated R, 93 minutes