‘Home Alone’ Meets ‘John Wick’ in Blood-Soaked ‘Becky’

by Warren Cantrell on June 4, 2020

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

The world is going through some crazy shit right now, and while it might not solve any of the problems at the root of that, a movie about a teenage girl butchering Nazis like so many fattened pigs has the potential to at least brighten a person’s day. And that’s what Becky, in theaters, drive-ins, on demand, and digital tomorrow, does: bring a little blood-soaked light into the darkness. The new movie from co-directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion is a classic revenge thriller that mixes John Wick sentiments with a Home Alone setting, never once skimping on the brutality of the former or the whimsy of the latter. It is a damn good time, and despite some rough dialogue in spots, Becky accomplishes everything it sets out to do, and even hides a few surprises for its audience along the way.

After a quick opening scene that sets the film up as something of a flashback from 2 weeks before, Milott and Murnion introduce 13-year old Becky (Lulu Wilson), who leaves school early with her father, Jeff (Joel McHale), for a surprise getaway to their cabin. The relationship between the two is strained as a result of the recent passing of Becky’s mother, which is further exacerbated by dad’s new relationship with Kayla (Amanda Brugel). Becky and her dad’s arrival at the cabin come right as Kayla and her young son show up, which Jeff tries to explain away as a means to move forward through their shared grief, yet Becky isn’t having any of it.

Kayla and her young son Ty (Isiah Rockcliffe) aren’t the only unexpected visitors at the cabin, however, as a group of four escaped Neo Nazi prisoners have also found their way to the area. This team of baddies is led by Dominick (Kevin James), who didn’t just stumble upon the location, but rather came to it deliberately to recover a key from the cabin’s basement. A hostage situation develops with Becky in the woods outside the cabin, and Dominick, his three companions, and Jeff, Kayla, and Ty inside. With no means of communicating with the outside world, Becky (who has Dominick’s key) must fend for herself and fight off the Nazis using her wits and whatever supplies she has scattered around the area.

Using established comedy mainstays like McHale and James against type is the first indication that Becky is playing by its own rules and flipping all of its audience’s preconceived notions on their ear. There are some funny moments to be found in the movie, sure, but these guys aren’t here for chuckles, and while Macaulay Culkin might have been living in a PG universe with Harry and Marv, Lulu Wilson is the mayor of hard-R town with Dominick, here. This is a gleefully violent movie with real stakes that takes the Home Alone premise to its logical conclusion: what if the traps did realistic damage, and what kind of a response would that encourage?

Becky answers this question with genuine gunshot trauma, eye gouging, interrogation torture, and villains that aren’t reluctant to harm underage sociopaths. Milott and Murnion lean into the trauma of Becky’s recent past to create a character that doesn’t just discover a predilection for maiming and murder, but rather nurtures what was already there to begin with. The film sets Becky up as a character that hasn’t found a way to manage or process the grief arising out of her mom’s passing…that is until she begins to stab Nazis.

Thus, the movie is less about the functional narrative structure of the story’s conflict (baddies holding a family hostage with one rogue element on the loose) and more about one young woman’s path towards healing by way of Nazi slaughter. Which isn’t to say that the plot is lacking in cohesion or structure: far from it. Although the exact nature or purpose of the key that Dominick is after remains vague (likely purposefully so to maintain its MacGuffin properties), Becky’s revenge quest is well-spun and tightly presented.

Much of the attention about Becky will likely be centered around Kevin James’ turn as a vicious, bloodthirsty, swastika-adorned super villain, which he plays well, yet it is Lulu Wilson that steals the show, here. Although she’s given little more than stock teenage anger-speak early on, when she begins her transformation into an avenging angel of death, she sets herself apart from the rest of the cast as far and away the most interesting character. It’s a magnificent performance, and it aligns well with the character work the script sets up ahead of Dominick’s arrival.

If this was just a hyper-violent revenge flick with decent characters and stunt casting, it would have still been fun, yet Becky takes things to another level several times throughout its tight 93-minute runtime with its convention dodging. Although the story follows a somewhat expected path, on a few occasions it zigs instead of zags, particularly when dealing with Dominick’s right-hand-man, Apex (Robert Maillet). These moments keep the audience on their toes right up to the last frame, and the film is immeasurably better for it.

A blood and gore-soaked romp through a Home Alone-esque scenario with 21st century sensibilities, Becky is all sorts of fun. Bolstered by a superb leading performance from Wilson, and great work against type by James, this one finds a way to be familiar while still managing to stick its cross-genre landing: all while keeping its audience deliciously off-balance. Although the gore will be a bit too much for some to handle, for anyone curious what Home Alone might have looked like as a John Wick origin story, Becky is your girl.

“Obvious Child” is the debut novel of Warren Cantrell, a film and music critic based out of Seattle, Washington. Mr. Cantrell has covered the Sundance and Seattle International Film Festivals, and provides regular dispatches for Scene-Stealers and The Playlist. Warren holds a B.A. and M.A. in History, and his hobbies include bourbon drinking, novel writing, and full-contact kickboxing.

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