You’d think casting not one but two comedians in dramatic roles would be “Becky’s” biggest selling point.
Lulu Wilson begs to differ.
The star’s turn as a teen forced to defend herself is the key reason to take this B-movie ride.
Wilson plays, who else, Becky, a youngster still processing her mother’s death. Daddy (Joel McHale, Comedian No. 1) is doing better, finding love with a single mom (Amanda Brugel).
Dad’s plan to let Becky get to know his new love is interrupted by a jail break. Dominick (Kevin James, Comedian No. 2) and three co-horts free themselves during a prison transfer. The group ends up on the bucolic property where Becky and co. are staying.
Why? There’s a mysterious key involved, a MacGuffin which adds little to the theatrics beyond plot necessity.
Dominick is a big man with a bigger beard and endless Nazi tattoos. He’s Herve Villechaize, though, compared to Apex (Robert Maillet), a gargantuan crook with a secret.
Becky’s quasi-family is no match for these hoods, but Becky herself is another story.
There’s something inspired about pitting an angst-ridden girl against prison escapees. It’s also wildly implausible, but screenwriters Nick Morris, Lane and Ruckus Skye (mostly) seal the deal. Wilson handles the rest, credibly playing a twisted Kevin McCallister.
Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion (the subpar “Bushwick“) flirt with something more substantial than a lean and mean thriller. The notion of teen rage, goosed beyond recognition, is a fascinating subtext explored just enough to make it matter. Milott and Murnion craft their story with care, from clever visual tics to leveraging the thrills for maximum impact.
Dominick’s white nationalist streak proves less effective. James is surprisingly scary as the escapee, but his presumed hate isn’t given enough screen time or context. Those Nazi tats are mere decoration, much like his beard.
“Becky” pays tribute to the horror hounds in the crowd, delivering several gross-out moments tonally out of sync with the narrative. Blood gushes, dribbles and oozes, and James gets in on the fun with a sequence you’ll watch with one eye closed.
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The bond between Dominick and Apex also suffers from a lack of screen time. Apex doesn’t have his heart in the mission, another quirk which plays into the narrative without feeling authentic.
The screenplay isn’t innovative or deep, but it delivers few eye-rolling moments. The story slows down just enough to let both McHale and Brugel explore the bounds of parenthood.
“Becky” moves fast, features some slick set pieces and delivers the required chills without apology. That, plus Wilson’s gritty performance, is more than enough reason to watch it.
Having cutups like McHale and James stretching themselves beyond recognition, though, is an added treat.
HiT or Miss: “Becky” delivers crisp grindhouse fun but stumbles when it tries to soar beyond its pulpy roots.