After a two-week, semi-accidental sabbatical, I return with Peter Berg’s darkest, funniest and best movie, “Very Bad Things.” And it’s perfect for the 3 a.m. treatment because under regular viewing conditions, you’d likely kill yourself.
Standing in stark contrast to Berg’s more cineplex friendly recent work, “Very Bad Things” is a pitch-black comedy that moves along at a rapid pace as Berg gleefully puts his ensemble cast that includes Jon Favreau, Cameron Diaz, Christian Slater, Jeremy Piven, and Daniel Stern through hell before concluding with one of the most darkly funny images of poetic justice committed to celluloid.
This plot unfolds thusly: Favreau plays Kyle Fisher a lucky schlub with a good life preparing to marry his fiance Laura, played by Diaz. Naturally, Fisher has to go on a bachelor party, so he and his life-long friends pack up and head to Las Vegas for one wild weekend of gambling, casual drug use, and a more believable and hopelessly darker bender than the one from “The Hangover.”
Unfortunately this bender takes a turn when Piven’s character Michael accidentally kills a call girl during some especially rough sex. This prostitute is the group’s albatross, because killing her essentially curses the group as they are consumed by guilt, killed, or forced to kill others to keep their secret safe.
But it’s funny. Remarkably so, actually.
“Very Bad Things” has a pitch-black sense of humor that revels in the suffering of its characters and the increasingly dire situation. It’s also helped out tremendously by Diaz and Slater who are the self-centered and sociopathic cornerstones of the movie. Diaz’s character is so obsessed with the details of her wedding that she won’t let anyone or anything keep it from being perfect. When she learns what happened in Vegas, her response isn’t repulsion. Instead, she instructs her fiance and his guilt-ridden friends to suck it up and get through the wedding.
And Slater is downright menacing as Robert Boyd. Boyd becomes the mastermind of the group’s ever-expanding lie after he kills a hotel concierge that discovers the recently bludgeoned prostitute. Slater is always at his best when he’s unhinged and his character’s matter-of-fact explanation of how he killed his friend’s suspicious wife is equal parts humorous and troubling.
The violence in “Very Bad Things” is visually shocking, but almost slapstick in its delivery and physicality. The death of Stern’s character is a great example:
Finally, the movie’s final scene. I won’t actually give it away, but I will say that it’s an appropriately grim conclusion to a movie that has been nothing but darkness. Had Diaz not played her character so perfectly loathsome, it would be easy to feel sorry for her. But because she was so horrible for the duration, the ending carries an appropriately comedic edge. Catch it late at night and have fun trying to sleep afterwards.