Becky (United States, 2020)

June 04, 2020
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Becky Poster

Put this one squarely in the “guilty pleasure” category. And keep in mind that if you can’t be entertained by a thirteen-year old girl ruthlessly dispatching evil-doers in ways that will make a horror film fans tingle with glee, this may not be your cup of tea. In crafting its story, Becky looks to two seemingly unlikely inspirations: Home Alone and Die Hard. More like Bruce Willis than Macaulay Culkin, the title character (played by Lulu Wilson) intends to kill the intruders, not maim them or chase them away. However, unlike Willis, she lacks a one-liner for every situation.

When the movie opens, Becky and her father, widower Jeff (Joel McHale), have arrived at their beloved lake house for a vacation. Enter Kayla (Amanda Brugel) and her young son, Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe). Their presence doesn’t make Becky happy. She dislikes Kayla more because of what she represents (a mother-replacement) than because of who she is. So, when Jeff drops the bombshell – he and Kayla plan to marry – Becky’s reaction is predictably stormy. She leaves the house and heads for a shed on the property that she uses as her refuge. There she seeks comfort from her dog and remembers her mother’s death from cancer. That’s when the violence arrives.

The violence comes in the form of escaped criminal Dominick (an unrecognizable Kevin James at his neo-Nazi finest) and his three cohorts: Lurch-sized Apex (Robert Maillet), dog-hater Cole (Ryan McDonald), and nondescript Hammond (James McDougall). They have come to the lake house because a McGuffin (actually a key with a fancy inscription) is hidden in the basement. They have determined that the best way to get it is to invade, intimidate, and kill. They capture Jeff, Kayla, and Ty, but Becky remains on the loose. After a close encounter with a hot skewer, Jeff briefly gets away but, faster than you can say Yippee Kay-Yay, he’s dead and Becky has decided that the world will be better with four fewer Hitler followers. So, taking a page out of The Book of Culkin, she MacGyvers a bunch of home-made weapons and uses them to take down the bad guys one at a time. Until she gets to Apex, that his, whose size makes him impervious to her arsenal.

The movie works in the sort of ultra-violent fashion that all entertaining movies work about underdogs getting the better of the evil men who have committed some terrible wrong against them, and it does so with a wicked sense of humor and without forcing the viewer to endure a stomach-churningly upsetting exercise in torture porn. There’s something primal and satisfying about watching Becky isolate and eliminate her enemies, any one of whom should be able to take her down in a fair fight.

Lulu Wilson imbues her character with passion and intensity and doesn’t seem the least bit bothered by a little bit of blood spatter. She’s capable and believable but the more interesting casting choice is Kevin James. To say this is an “against type” choice is an understatement. James, normally the most mild-mannered and likable of men, has made a conscious decision to step well outside of the comfort zone established by his long-running TV series, The King of Queens, and his appearances in various Adam Sandler movies. (Not to forget Paul Blart: Mall Cop.) Perhaps the most surprising thing is that James is effective as the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to invite into your living room after he knocks on the front door. He’s no Alan Rickman. Nor is he Joe Pesci. But it doesn’t take long to forget that he once was Doug Heffernan.

Although some viewers will undoubtedly be made uncomfortable by the concept of a young teenager turning into a vigilante, Wilson has no trouble selling Becky as being mature enough to handle the role and there’s enough over-the-top gore (one instance of which involves something no person should ever have to do their own eye) to make it obvious that this is all in bloody fun. This is a B-grade Drive-In Special and, with indoor theaters closed, it should play well both to the outdoor crowd and those who prefer to watch from their couches. It’s a brand of exploitation that feels surprisingly fresh considering how many tropes it recycles.

Becky (United States, 2020)

Director: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Cast: Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Joel McHale, Robert Maillet, Amanda Brugel, Ryan McDonald, James McDougall, Isaiah Rockcliffe
Home Release Date: 2020-09-15
Screenplay: Nick Morris and Ruckus Skye & Lane Skye
Cinematography: Greta Zozula
Music: Nima Fakhrara
U.S. Distributor: Quiver Distribution
Run Time: 1:33
U.S. Release Date: 2020-06-05
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Gore, Profanity)
Genre: Thriller
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1