Forget punching Nazis. Are you craving to see a gang of white supremacists ripped to bloody bits? Good news for you: Becky has arrived.
Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, co-directors of the action-packed B-movies Cooties and Bushwick, reteam for their best yet. Becky centers on a pint-sized Rambo who uses her forested tree fort as the HQ for an unrepentant assault on the escape convicts who’ve taken her family hostage. Lulu Wilson (The Haunting of Hill House, Ouija: Origin of Evil) stars as Becky, a 13-year-old girl filled with rage over losing her mother to cancer. She acts out by shoplifting gummy worms and being a vindictive brat to her widowed father (Joel McHale), his girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel), and her young son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe). So, when dear old dad surprises her with a big bonding weekend at the family vacation house, way out in the woods, Becky is not pleased. She skulks off to her tree house with her beloved dog Diego, and narrowly misses the arrival of a batch of brawny, tattooed, and terrifying Neo-Nazis led by Kevin James.
Yeah, Kevin James.
This casting of a comedic actor might sound ridiculous, like maybe Becky is meant to be a Home Alone rip-off, where a clever kid batters back home invaders with toys and tricks. However, there’s no comedy in this story, and the gore alone soon proves how far we’ve wandered from the world of John Hughes. Before Dominic (James) and his crew arrive at the vacation home in search of a buried McGuffin, they viciously attack cons and cops to escape prison, then murder a family man and his children just to hijack their car. By the time he swans into Becky’s living room, the audience is well aware of the violence this Neo-Nazi throws down without blinking an eye. Then, he trains that eye on the Black mother and child who opened the door to him, Kayla and Ty.
The King of Queens star is almost unrecognizable in this role. His standard buzz cut is shorn skinhead short. A big, dark beard covers the chin that once quaked in comic disbelief and doofery. His goofy grin has been replaced by a sober snarl. And his body–from the back of his head to the backs of his hands to the whole of his torso–is riddled in tattoos of Nazi symbols. Gone is the jaunty gambol in his voice. Without it, James gives the most restrained performance of his career, and it is truly chilling. When delivering racist monologues, his tone is a low snarl, as if he’s a wild dog preparing to bite. When he calls out to the AWOL Becky, he uses words like “sweetheart,” but his delivery is flat and cold, turning the nicety into a threat. As the tension grows, his snarl grows to a growl then a roar, and James is fully transformed into a properly terrifying antagonist.
This wild 180 alone might be reason enough to give into curiosity and check out Becky. (It worked for me.) Yet, this taut thriller’s got much more in store. Meeting James beat for beat is Wilson, whose blue eyes sizzle with rage and a haunted sense of loss. Becky is a girl who has been desperate for a place to channel her pent up wrath, and these bumbling bigots just gave her license to kill. Okay, I know I said this isn’t like Home Alone. And to be fair, Becky does have its hero battling her attackers with toys. But would Kevin McCallister have the moxie to MacGyver a pack of color pencils and a ruler into a dual-fist dagger set? No chance. And that’s just the first kill this unhinged teen unleashes on the creeps who are threatening the only family she has left. Wilson nails every moment, oozing heartache as her voice lilts with taunting menace.
The script by Nick Morris, Lane Skye, and Ruckus Skye offers a string of ghoulish attack scenes, against both the invading Neo-Nazis and their homebound hostages. Milott and Murnion don’t shy away from the savagery of these moments, delivering close-ups of open wounds, burned flesh, and even a grotesquely dangling eye. The violence against Becky’s family showcases the threat of these invaders; the stakes are life and death. The violence she offers back is ghoulish yet cathartic, delivering the blows to these creeps we perhaps wish we could, even with half as much panache. Yet this is not violence for cheap slasher spectacle. There’s a cost to blood spill, which Dominick warns Becky about as their inevitable showdown draws near.
From the film’s opening montage, these two are destined for a ferocious face-off. Applying a sleek technique to their thriller, Milott and Murnion intercut images from Becky’s school day to Dominick’s last day behind bars, paralleling the aggression and subordination each is expected to endure. Every scene draws them closer, not just geographically but psychologically. With each assault, Becky becomes less fazed by the violence she’s inflicting and more like the monster of a man she must defeat. In a scene where the two negotiate over walkie-talkies, swish-pans zip from Becky to Dominick and back again, emphasizing the intensity of their twisted connection beyond their proximity. Even as we worry for her as our hero, we’re asked to wonder what these parallels mean, pushing past the revenge-fantasy revelry to the undercurrent of trauma this child is enduring.
An unsettling score charts Becky’s journey. At times, it is a blend of chimes and breathing, which offers an insight into her search for solitude and peace in her forest hideaway. When she witnesses her father’s torture by these malicious villains, her scream is swallowed by a synth score. This pained screech of music will become a theme, replaying when she is in berserker mode, wielding a Super Soaker water gun loaded with gasoline. Then, finally, the soundtrack of synth and chimes and breathing relents. Her scream is her own, awful and agonized and feral. As it echoes, we are left with her to wonder what she’s lost to violence and through it, and what might remain.
“Becky” is now available on demand.