‘Becky’ Review: Kevin James’ Home Invasion Thriller Is a Pleasant and Gory Surprise

     June 5, 2020

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Lovable sitcom star Kevin James plays a heavily tattooed neo-Nazi in the new home invasion movie Becky, and if you think that sounds more than a little ridiculous, I can’t say I’d blame you. I saw more than a few double takes online when the trailer first hit. “You expect me to buy The King of Queens as a white supremacist?” cried the internet. But I am here today to tell you that, to my great surprise, Becky delivers the goods and more. Specifically, gore. Lots of it.

Lulu Wilson (Annabelle: Creation) stars as the title character, a spunky and rebellious young teen who accompanies her widowed father Jeff (Joel McHale) on a weekend getaway to a remote cabin, where they meet up with Dad’s girlfriend (Amanda Brugel) and her young son. It’s an important trip, as dear old Dad tells Becky that he plans to remarry. Becky, who is both naturally protective of her late mother’s memory and a bit of a brat, does not take the news especially well, and she runs off into the surrounding woods like Rambo with colored pencils instead of a big-ass knife.

That’s when James’ merciless Nazi fugitive Dominick knocks on the door, pretending to be searching for a lost pet. Following a threatening exchange with Jeff and his bride-to-be that lets the couple know he means business, Dominick instructs his Aryan Brotherhood buddies to search the home for a mysterious key that is believed to be somewhere on the property. That’s when they realize that young Becky is outside on her own, a looming threat who could run and get help (but doesn’t?) before Dominick’s men have a chance to complete their mission.

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Image via Quiver Distribution

Dominick trots Jeff out to the middle of the woods and begins to torture him so Becky can hear his screams echo through the trees, and possibly reveal herself. Suffice to say, this act of aggression does not go over well with Becky. With her dad in in despair, she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands, and make it her mission to even the score. Wilson does a fine job as the emotional anchor of this film, and like Home Alone‘s Kevin McAllister before her, I love how creative Becky gets with her revenge. I mean, a ruler? Really?

Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion do not shy away from the violence here, embracing that element like few R-rated films I’ve seen. I wasn’t surprised to learn that the first cut of this film that was submitted to the MPA came back rated NC-17, forcing the filmmakers to make a few cuts. The gore is gratuitous, but since when has that been a bad thing? There is a scene in this movie that had me screaming “what the fuck? what the fuck?” for nearly a full minute and joins the list of the craziest shit I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Meanwhile, James’ dark turn reminded me of when Vince Vaughn shaved his head to play against type in the equally bloody indie Brawl in Cell Block 99. James’ transformation might not be quite as believable, but it’s effective nonetheless. I don’t know what compelled James to tattoo a giant swastika on his head and make this is his first dramatic role, but I sure do respect his commitment to the character. It’s a… big swing, to say the least. But strangely enough, it connects. I think the team behind Becky really have something here, and if this film succeeds, I’d urge them to consider a sequel, however improbable. They could cast another sitcom star against type, and make that the signature move of the series. I bet Ray Romano would kill to make a movie like this. Hell, make him a Nazi too, and call it Raymond Hates Everybody.

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Image via Quiver Distribution

On a more serious note, if Becky has any drawbacks, it’s the subplot with Dominick’s gigantic right-hand man Apex, played by former pro wrestler Robert Maillet. Apex is a gentle giant of sorts — a human grey area in a black-and-white movie featuring “good guys” and “bad guys.” His character is a nice idea in theory, but I fear that a movie like this should’ve just kept it simple, as Apex’s motivations are a little hazy. He comes, he goes, he comes back again… it just doesn’t entirely work. And then the other thing, a minor quibble, but one worth noting, is that the film could stand to be more clear about the key Dominick is after, which goes largely unexplained. Why is it so important to him, and why will he stop at nothing to get it? That kind of thing. Ultimately, it’s a MacGuffin, so it doesn’t really matter. All we need to know is that Dominick is looking for something on the property and is willing to kill to obtain it. That includes animals, unfortunately. Just a fair warning for those who can’t stomach that kind of abuse.

Despite that excessive extremity, I admire the creative spirit of this project, with the fun, girl’s notebook-style font, a cool, throwback electronic score from Nima Fakhrara, and some nifty special effects makeup from Karlee Morse. It’s certainly better than the average genre movie that debuts on VOD. There’s genuine suspense here, and again, some of the kill scenes devised by writers Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye and Nick Morris are just gnarly. Kudos to J.D. LifshitzRaphael Margules and their fellow producers for encouraging the filmmaking team to run wild here. I didn’t care for Milott and Murnion’s first film, Cooties, and I missed their Dave Bautista-led follow-up Bushwick, but this puts them firmly on my radar going forward.

Becky won’t be for everyone. I wouldn’t blame you for picking something else to watch because you’ve probably seen enough violence in real life this week. But the violence in this film is cathartic, as you watch this overmatched and underestimated young woman get her revenge on a bunch of hate-mongers who deserve everything they have coming to them. Quality genre films have been few and far between the past few months, but Becky is a blast of badassery that will tide gorehounds over until fall films like Candyman and Halloween Kills.

Grade: B+

Quiver Distribution and Redbox Entertainment will release Becky in select theaters and drive-ins as well as digital/VOD platforms today.

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