Have you ever sat around on your couch watching, well, pretty much ANY CHANNEL on your television and thought to yourself (in all caps and boldened font preferably): “THESE PEOPLE DESERVE TO DIE”? Then Bobcat Goldthwait has a movie for you.
In the first 15 minutes of the new pitch-black comedy/society satire by the man who brought us “Shakes the Clown” and “The World’s Greatest Dad,” Frank (played with sturdy meekness by Joel Murray) loses his job on a shitty technicality, discovers that his daughter is a horrible brat, AND is told that his migraines, while not helped by the annoying family that lives next door to him, are not caused by their incessant yelling and TV watching but are instead a symptom of a pretty-much-inoperable brain tumor.
So Frank, who up until then lived one of those quiet, complacent lives that are never a good sign at the start of any movie, goes full on Walter White-meets-William “D-Fens”-Foster (though with less questionable hairstyle choices than either) and embarks, well, on a killing spree. None of this is a spoiler because the first 15 seconds of the trailer tell you as much.
During his first hit (of an annoying teen who JUST annoyingly starred in her annoying “Super Sweet 16” birthday reality special) he encounters Roxy (a chiclet smiled Tara Lynne Barr) who, herself, has a major chip on her tiny teenage shoulder, and before you know it, the two of them are wearing Faye-and-Warren inspired hats and form an unlikely partnership that is 2/3s Mickey and Mallory in “Natural Born Killers”, 1/4 “Paper Moon”-ish in it’s dynamic and with a dash of Honey-and-Bunny in “Pulp Fiction” thrown in. So… if I name-dropped half-a-dozen movies in two paragraphs while describing this cinematic venture, and it is not by accident: Goldthwait is a pop culture junkie and it shows. Every step, conversation, even every poster framed in a movie theater they walk in is a nod to something.
Who do Frank and Roxy want to off, so to speak? People who are fans of Nascar. People who use the word “literally”. People who throw used tampons at each other on television. People who talk on the phone during movies. People who are not nice or kind. Needless to say, circa 2012, they have their job cut out for them. Thankfully, Frank is actually a really good gunmen and Roxy is actually really ruthless beneath those blunt bangs and twinkly eyes of hers.
And while the movie is funny at times and definitely an apt look into the sad, sad state of how America these days spends their time, it never QUITE has the bite you expect (hope?) it to have. Reality TV is a nightmare, and shows like “American Idol” (or “American Superstarz” as the “God Bless America’s” version of it is called) are destroying what little good taste is left in the mainstream entertainment, but are they, really THAT EVIL? Is embarking on a murderous rampage across America really the solution to anything if in the end, you become some form of entertainment for the unwashed, ADHD-adled masses yourself and not that much more shocking than what we see on reality TV anyway? With a movie like this, you either have to go DARKER than pitch black or not go there at all. And Goldthwait never quite plunges deep and dark enough for our 2012 desensitized selves to care (even though, YES, there is plenty of blood and plenty of everything else).
But then again, maybe his goal was to make a movie that reminds us of all the GREAT movies it borrows from so we might revisit one of those this weekend instead of plunging ourselves in front of the next episode of “Bachelorette.” If that’s the case, Bobcat, a job well done here, my early-Tarantino marathon is already all planned out.