There's a high level of satisfaction in watching a seemingly defenceless film character overcome the underestimations of those around them and kick arse, especially when said character is a prepubescent girl. The title character in new thriller 'Becky', however, is a little different than your average good-girl-turned-arse-kicker; from her very first on-screen appearance, it's obvious that this little girl is brimming with anger, simply waiting for the perfect opportunity for that anger to be unleashed on those who test her. And oh boy, does this film give her one.
13-year-old Becky (Lulu Wilson, TV's 'The Haunting of Hill House') has a strained-at-best relationship with her father Jeff (Joel McHale, 'The Happytime Murders') in the wake of her beloved mother's passing. Desperate to make their bond stronger - and to soften the blow of the news that he is marrying his new girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel, Netflix's 'Snowpiercer') - Jeff takes Becky on a trip to their lake house. However, Becky's horror over her stepmother-to-be quickly becomes the least of her worries; unbeknownst to her, neo-Nazi prisoner Dominick (Kevin James, 'Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation') and his equally intimidating lackeys have overtaken their transport van and broken free nearby, en route to the lake house to pick up a key that just so happens to live in Becky's old cubby house in the adjacent woods.
At only 14 years old and having cut her teeth on horror roles in both film and TV, Lulu Wilson is a magnetic on-screen presence, growling out most of her lines and eventually tilting fully into pure animalistic cruelty, all while still making Becky a character worth rooting for. There's also the major challenge of expressing the underlying trauma of losing a parent without turning Becky into a brat. It's a lot to ask of such a young actress, and Wilson takes on the challenge with stunning ease.
Despite some clever editing, a fun score and being well-paced overall, 'Becky' pushes its luck with a runtime of 100 minutes, and it becomes obvious that it needs to pull out something impressive if it wants to stay afloat. Of course, it would be all too easy for Becky to run for help once Dominick and his crew hold her lake house hostage, instead channelling her cumulative rage to become an unexpected lethal weapon to take Dominick's crew out one by one. Prosthetic makeup artist Karlee Morse is the film's saving grace, providing some of the most gleeful gore I have seen all year, including one loose optic nerve ripped straight from torture porn classic 'Hostel'. Those with weaker stomachs will hopefully find some enjoyment in Becky's killing creativity (who knew pencils and rulers could be so deadly?), and those who don't need to cover their eyes will surely be impressed with the commitment to brutality and bloody brain matter.
Despite an incredibly half-baked story, 'Becky' is a great showcase for its two lead performances.
A major draw to 'Becky' is no doubt the transformation Kevin James undergoes as psychotic antagonist Dominick. Rocking a large swastika tattoo on the back on his head and softly spouting philosophical nonsense, James is unrecognisable in both appearance and performance, for better and for worse. After spending two decades building one of the least interesting filmographies in recent memory (seriously, he's played the clumsy fat guy trope into the fucking ground at this point), it's refreshing to see James take on a new type of role and prove himself as more than a one-note actor.
Despite this, the film's reluctance to lean into the pitch-black comedic moments it flirts with in the second act becomes one of the most disappointing elements. With one very large exception involving a chopping board and a blunt knife (which was actually an unplanned moment while filming), 'Becky' desperately needs more moments of grim unexpected laughter. The film gradually loses the gleeful edge to its hyper-violent moments over the run time, and these would make a great foil to just how over-the-top some of the bloody practical effects are. The casting of James and McHale also proves curious, as both are best known for their comedic work, and tapping into this definitely could have greatly enhanced the experience. By the final fifteen 15 minutes, the playful edge the film initially had is gone, an effect which wears on its audience.
Adding to audience fatigue is an imperative to care about Dominick's pursuit of the all-important key, because an explanation for its purpose is literally never given. Whether this is an opportunity to set up for a sequel is unclear (it would be a confusing choice given the narrative conclusion), but it does nothing for the film beyond becoming another reason for audiences to scratch their head.
Despite an incredibly half-baked story, 'Becky' is a great showcase for its two lead performances. It's an unlikely mash-up of 'John Wick'-style violence and 'Home Alone' hijinks, one that's best enjoyed when common sense is left at the door. If only its writing and plot were as well done as its gore.