by Kenny Hedges
It’s been nearly four years since white supremacist shitheel Richard Spencer was decked in the face by a protestor at a rally in New York shortly after Trump’s inauguration, sparking an online debate about whether or not it was okay to punch a Nazi. Noted intellectual, film nerd and man who looks like his name Slavoj Zizek answered with a definitive no. Today, perhaps we’re leaning toward the opposite. Becky certainly is, and she’d probably throw on a pair of brass knuckles beforehand.
No, Becky is not some reaction in response to the popular Karen meme in the wake of the recent Black Lives Matter movement. Becky is Lulu Wilson in directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion.
Becky’s early teen years were already shattered when her mother died of cancer. Now, forced to summer with her father (Joel McHale) and his new fiancé and her son in a cabin, she spends her days shoplifting from convenience stores and generally lashing out. But all the 13-year-old rage in the world won’t prepare her for what waits at home: Kevin James.
In a role that’ll probably be remembered for being more than it is, James plays an escaped neo-nazi, who with his fellow inmates has broken into the family cabin to retrieve a MacGuffin in the form of a key. What the key is, or how it will help James’ gang succeed in an upcoming race war (could it be magical or is it just Nazi gold?), is immaterial, and the film doesn’t care much about it.
The moment James and company arrive, the stages are set for a pretty standard home invasion thriller, with Wilson and James in a standoff.
Milott and Murnion first landed with the eccentric, often funny Leigh Whannell-scripted zombie comedy Cooties. And while both films delight in a grand guignol level of gore, there’s much less at stake in the former.
And make no mistake, Becky takes every opportunity to unleash a 13-year-old mentality on Nazis in the most brutal ways imaginable. There’s eye gouging/removal, stabbings, burnings and kills too creative to spoil. It’s nearly enough just to enjoy Becky come up with simplistically vicious ways to dispatch people who are, right now, up for grabs.
With apologies to Mr. Zizek, there is pleasure in watching a Nazi get run over by a lawnmower, just as there was watching Tarantino machine gun Hitler or just watch Mel Brooks take him down with words. There’s always argument for satire, but Peter Cook pointed out how much it really had on Hitler. Sometimes, living vicariously isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Which is what makes Becky’s Nazi’s all the more frustrating. James is a wildly successful actor and comedian, happy to shoot Adam Sandler-funded comedies, and while even taking a role which involves a giant Swastika tattoo on the back of your head might be career risk for James enough, it’s not for Becky.
It’s strange to call out a film’s Nazis for not being…Nazi-enough, but I do not recall hearing one racist slur out of James’ mouth, nor any of the others. Beyond the tattoo, some vague talk about racial purity (in this case related to a dog) and the mythical key, they may as well be any other form of criminal. This is especially frustrating, considering McHale’s fiancé is African American, and the tension is mostly unspoken. One of the Nazis even has a change of heart during the film, completely negating his creed.
This would be less of an issue, and just a fun home invasion thriller, if the film didn’t ultimately have loftier themes in mind than just racial hatred. Becky is more interested in the violence she inflicts on her captors, and seems to suggest that she somehow got caught in the infectious nature of being violent.
So why, in the final moments of the film, have the MacGuffin suddenly mean something? Becky’s last implication is supposed to be chilling, hit home after 90s minutes of nothing but intentionally eccentric, ghoulish fun. However, her hatred in no way at any point in the film could possibly have been racially motivated. I wouldn’t be surprised if the film has an alternate ending that would have made more sense, ended on a far grimmer note, and ultimately stayed truer to the times it was released.
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