Producers: Jordan Yale Levine, Jordan Beckerman, J.D. Lifshitz, Raphael Margules and Russ Posternak Directors: Cary Murnian and Jonathan Milott Screenplay: Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye and Nick Morris Cast: Lula Wilson, Kevin James, Amanda Brugel, Robert Maillet, Ryan McDonald, James McDougall, Isaiah Rockliffe and Joel McHale Distributor: Quiver Distribution
Expect no restraint in the blood-and-gore department in this ultra-violent hostage thriller, in which a young girl faces off against a brace of escaped neo-Nazi convicts and—you guessed it—ultimately prevails. There’s a comic–book quality at work here, but of a distinctly edgy sort, and the humor is of a definitely black kind, despite the presence of rotund Kevin James, who has previously made his reputation in bland television sitcoms and big-screen family farces like the Paul Blart pictures, in the cast.
The titular character is an adolescent grief-ridden and surly in reaction to the death of her mother a year earlier. Her mood is not helped by the fact that she believes her father Jeff (Joel McHale) intends to sell the remote lake house they’re driving to with her dog—a place she obviously associates with her dear departed mom.
Once they arrive, however, Jeff surprises her with the news that he’s decided to keep the house after all. Her happiness quickly dissipates, however, with the arrival of Jeff’s new girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel) and her son Ty (Isaiah Rockliffe), especially after Jeff announces that he and Kayla are engaged.
The setup is reminiscent of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s recent “The Lodge,” but “Becky” eschews any hint of the supernatural in favor of straightforward human menace. White supremacist Dominick (James, underplaying fairly effectively), has engineered a jailbreak for himself and his comrades, who include brawny Apex (Robert Maillet, another ex-wrestler turned actor), sneaky Cole (Ryan McDonald) and skittish Hammond (James McDougall). Killing a few people along as they go, they make their way to the lake house, where they take Jeff, Kayla and Ty prisoner while Becky is in her nearby tree house, sulking, with ???? beside her.
Why here? Dominick has come to get a key that had somehow been hidden in the basement—which will unlock his plans for, well, an undisclosed purpose, presumably of a most nefarious sort. Finding it gone, he quickly fingers Becky as the person who took it.
The rest of the movie is a cat-and-mouse game in which Dominick tries to force the girl, with whom he’s in walkie-talkie contact, to turn the key over—first by threatening the captives, and then by sending his men out to find her. Jeff and Kayla don’t fare well, but Becky is fortunate that Dominick uses his men the way the villains in kung-fu pictures always do, dispatching them one at a time so that the girl can confront each individually. And they all underestimate her, of course, allowing her to fashion traps for them that are far grislier than the ones Macaulay Culkin devised in the “Home Alone” series. They might not always work as she’d hoped, but since Apex proves to regret some of his past actions, it eventually culminates in a ghastly showdown between Becky and Dominick, though the makers leave room for a final grim surprise.
“Becky” from a host of logical lapses, beginning with the script’s MacGuffin, the key. It’s ever explained how, or why, it was hidden in the house; more importantly, we’re never told what it unlocks. Hitchcock always played fair on such matters, however absurd the explanation.
Then there are Becky’s choices: she never runs away, though she could. She even has a motorboat at her disposal, but instead of using it to go for help, she saves it so that she can employ its motor to dispatch one of the villains. The obvious reason is that the makers are determined to create a pyramid of violence, with the level escalating from scene to scene until the flamboyantly over-the-top finale.
If one’s willing to accept the obvious contrivances, however, the movie works on a purely gut level. James doesn’t really convince us as a malevolent skinhead, seeming too studied and cautious. But Wilson is a find, capturing the girl’s vulnerable side and going into wholesale bloodthirsty mode later on. The supporting cast goes through the motions well enough, though Maillet succeeds more through sheer physical presence than any thespian ability. The technical contributions are competent enough, from Melanie Garros’ production design and Greta Zozula’s cinematography to Alan Canant’s editing; the music by Nima Fakhrana is raucous, and so are the garish opening and closing credits. In this context, the cheesiness of the not-so-special effects is completely appropriate.
“Becky” can be recommended only to the grindhouse crowd, those who like their movies ridiculous but blood-soaked. But they will probably enjoy this far cruder, less cerebral version of “Hannah.”