A revenge-thriller featuring Kevin James as an escaped neo-Nazi convict doesn’t sound appealing. Yes, the Kevin James of not one, but two, Paul Blart movies. Nowadays the former King of Queens star is better known for hanging out with his buddies on Happy Madison Productions‘ movies. But earlier this year, Adam Sandler reminded audiences he could act in Uncut Gems. If Sandler could do it, James must have felt like it was his turn. Could a Rob Schneider drama be on the horizon? In Becky, James plays foil to Lulu Wilson’s angst-ridden teen. From the directors of the fun horror-comedy, Cooties, Becky channels 80’s-styled exploitation revenge-thrillers with hints of a Rated-R Home Alone.
Becky is an angry, rebellious teenage girl. Her mother died from cancer, her father already has a new girlfriend, and now he’s dragged her to the family cabin to re-connect. To make matters worse, he’s brought his now fiancée and her son for some family bonding. But when a group of escaped neo-Nazi convicts show up at the cabin at take her father and his fiancée hostage, Becky finds a new outlet for her rage.
Becky Channels 1980’s Exploitation Thrills With Bloody Aplomb
Fans of 80’s exploitation revenge-thrillers will find plenty to like about Becky. And directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion (Cooties) are clearly plugging the aesthetics of the sub-genre and time period. Though Becky never scrapes the grime of 80’s revenge-thrillers like Ms 45, it’s jarring music score and aggressive violence owe much to the era. At just over 90 minutes, Becky should feel the strain of its lengths. Yet Milott and Murnion largely keep things moving at a brisk pace. Arguably, Becky takes a little long to get to its Rated-R ‘Home Alone’ set-up. Still once Becky tapes together sharpened pencils this revenge-thriller delivers. The combination of Becky’s inventiveness and the brutal, practical gore effects produce some cringeworthy violence. Like Better Watch Out, Becky brings Kevin McCallister’s hijnks to bloody life with a dark sense of humour.
The combination of Becky’s inventiveness and the brutal, practical gore effects produce some cringeworthy violence.
As it turns out, this dark humour is a bit of a double-edged sword. Much of the humour is as darkly wicked as intended. Becky’s exasperated final response to the giant Robert Maillet’s plea that he’s “changed” is unexpected and hilarious. Occasionally, however, Becky feels a little silly and out of touch with its established tone. Watching Becky descend from a makeshift zip-line to attack an assailant feels a little tonally uneven. Aside from some of the mixed humour, Becky’s screenplay is a similarly mixed bag. On the one hand, Becky is appropriately stripped down in terms of story. Moreover, the revenge-thriller avoids exploiting the neo-Nazi roots of its villains. Conversely, its murky MacGuffin and standard ‘rebel girl’ tropes feel thin.
Kevin James Convinces While Lulu Wilson is Compelling
Odds are many viewers will base their decision to watch Becky based on Kevin James’ role. While some viewers may watch out of curiosity, others sadly pass on this revenge-thriller based on James’ presence. Contrary to expectation, James pleasantly surprises as the ‘big heavy’. He completely inhabits the role and brings quite a bit of menace to his scenes. When James is on screen he elevates the movie’s suspense and balances out the dark humour. In fact, one might argue that Becky doesn’t use Kevin James enough. Amongst his crew, only the massive ex-pro-wrestler Robert Maillet stands out. His imposing size makes him hard to miss, but the decision to invest his, and only his, character with some remorse is an unexpected change of pace.
With Becky, Wilson smoothly transitions to more mature roles bringing a raw intensity to the character.
Though the character conforms to most stereotypes about rebellious teen girls, Lulu Wilson is an absolute blast as the movie’s title character, Becky. Despite the fact that she’s only 15-years-old, Wilson has already amassed an impressive résumé that includes Annabelle: Creation, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and The Haunting of Hill House. With Becky, Wilson smoothly transitions to more mature roles bringing a raw intensity to the character. If the script is a little light on her character, Wilson is undeterred and turns in a charismatic performance. She balances out the character’s rage with a range of other emotions making her a sympathetic character. Ultimately, Wilson ensures “Becky” belongs alongside other ‘badass women’ of horror.
Becky Exceeds Expectations as Gritty, Female Revenge-Thriller
Don’t be deterred by Kevin James’ role in the movie. First and foremost, James proves he’s more than up to the challenge. An expanded role might have actually further benefited Becky. Besides, Lulu Wilson’s rage-fuelled performance rightly takes centre stage. She’s fantastic in what’s a darkly fun, bloody revenge movie. If the idea of a Rated-R spin on Home Alone sounds appealing, Becky delivers on what it promises.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B+