If co-directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion had the goal of making an unorthodox action-thriller full of crazy B-movie gore and with an undeniable “Die Hard” vibe that sees a 13-year-old girl as their John McClane, well…mission accomplished. “Becky” checks all of those boxes, sometimes repeatedly just for good measure. It may sound wacky (and it kinda is) but it’s really well made and sports one particularly surprising performance.
The film begins with a young girl named Becky Hooper (Lulu Wilson) answering questions from a sheriff and a social worker. Clearly something bad has happened and Becky is at its center. Hop back two weeks earlier where the film craftily intercuts two storylines happening simultaneously. One sets up Becky’s story while the other introduces the film’s main antagonist, a vile neo-Nazi named Dominick (Kevin James).
Obviously the casting choice that sticks out is James. His transformation from funny man to cold-blooded white supremacist is astonishingly good. James is a menacing presence￼, giving us a character tattooed with swastikas and Nazi SS bolts, and with a chilling disregard for human life. He and four of his acolytes break out of a prison transport and within seconds cement themselves as dangerous and deadly killers.
At the same time Becky is struggling. Her pent-up anger over her mother’s death to cancer has led to her lashing out at school and at her father Jeff. He’s played by a sorely miscast Joel McHale whose seemingly perpetual grin has you waiting for punch line at the end of his every line of dialogue. Daddy and daughter set out for the family lake house to spend the weekend. Once there Jeff informs Becky that he is planning to marry his new girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel). It’s hard to tell whether he is incredibly naive or incredibly stupid, but his news (predictably) goes over with his daughter like a lead balloon.
As you can probably guess, the two stories intersect when Dominick and his crew show up at the lake house. Turns out there is a key buried in a crawlspace under the house marked by a symbol matching one of Dom’s tattoos. The key becomes a cleverly utilized McGuffin that does a lot of essential tablesetting. Jeff doesn’t know anything about it. Becky ends up with it. Dominick will do anything to get it.
Family drama and home invasion thriller is just a part of the genre blend we get. “Becky” is just as much a revenge-fueled splatter film as the 13-year-old protagonist unleashes her sorrow and rage in a number of grisly, blood-soaked ways. Some of the violence is shocking, some of it is uncomfortable, some of it is laced with humor. But it works both metaphorically and as an old-school action gore-fest.
Milott and Murnion do some really interesting things with their camera while at the same time steadily building tension. While James may be the show stealer, Lulu Wilson is vital and makes for a strong, sympathetic rooting interest. She’s intense, troubled, and seemingly on her own (in more ways than one). While a bit outlandish at times, both she and the script (penned by Nick Morris, Lane and Ruckus Skye) handle things smartly and make the story surprisingly believable. And their little John McClane makes Bruce Willis looks like a choir boy. So be prepared.
VERDICT – 4 STARS