Review: Lulu Wilson Rambos up in weak-willed home invasion thriller ‘Becky’
A movie cannot survive on premise alone. Yet the efficient, taboo-flirting genre exercise “Becky” doesn’t have much going for it beyond its elevator pitch, which is thus: Goofy sitcom dude Kevin James goes dark as a sadistic neo-Nazi escaped convict facing off with a feisty girl during a brutal home invasion. Sounds intriguing, right? Well that’s about all there is to it, and even the suspense falls flat.
Our heroine, Becky, is played by the formidable Lulu Wilson, who has brought her creepy kid talents to “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” “Annabelle: Creation” and “The Haunting of Hill House,” establishing herself as a mini scream queen by the age of 15. But the “Becky” script doesn’t stand up to her talents. Written by Nick Moore, Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye, it doesn’t give us enough material to care about the story and keeps everything on the surface.
The writers inject a standard home invasion formula with another standard formula, teen angst: girl loses mother, girl refuses to accept Kayla (Amanda Brugel), the new bride of her simpering father, Jeff (Joel McHale). That should serve as motivation for Becky. But functionally, it’s just a way to get her out of the house when Dominick (James) — whose personality is “lots of swastika tattoos” — and his crew of large, nasty buddies escape the prison bus and end up at Becky’s family lake house.
Dom is in search of something hidden in the house, a plot device that seems to function not as a way to further understand the character or story, but to keep him at the house, torturing the family while spouting vague “purebred” rhetoric and threatening Becky via a toy walkie-talkie. Meanwhile, Becky is making like Rambo, rigging various ad hoc weapons to take out Dominick’s posse in increasingly bloody fashion.
Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion build a few interesting sequences that visually illustrate the face-off between Becky and Dominick, cheating their profiles together across space as if they’re eye to eye. Otherwise, it’s swift and gory horror-flick stuff, aside from a few lyrical sequences of Becky in the woods, her sanctuary and safety.
The problem with “Becky” is there’s both too much information to sustain any tension and not enough to sustain interest. We watch as Becky picks off the thugs and as Kayla dismantles Dom’s boneheaded arguments, but there’s never any mystery or sense that Becky is in danger, due to her own ferocity and wits. It proceeds as you might expect, but the script never gives away any of the “why” of it all, so you just start to stop caring about why anyone is doing what he or she is doing and even why this murderous, gender-flipped “Home Alone” unfolds the way it does.
Comedian James deserves better for his dark turn against type; this is not his “Uncut Gems” by a long shot. And Wilson has already proved her ability to tackle dark and scary little girls. “Becky” offers her more physical action and final girl-style stunts, but the character is far less complex than any of her other, high-profile roles. This half-baked B-movie does leave you wanting more — much, much more.
Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service film critic.
Rated: R, for strong bloody violence, grisly images, and language
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: Available June 5 on VOD
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