November 14, 2012 -- I wasn't expecting much from this dark comedy about people who need to be killed, but it blew me away. It's a wonderful movie, spoofing and shooting all the worst things about our failing civilization, from the Tea Party, to vicious talk show hosts, to the “God hates fags” group of cemetery protestors to those dreadful mean-spirited reality TV shows and the smug gossipers of TMZ and their ilk. I tip my hat to long-time stand up comic Bobcat Goldthwait (writer-director) for making this perfect bloody little independent movie. I would not change a thing about it if I could.
The movie's main character, Frank (Joel Murray of “The Artist”) sets up the main theme of the movie in an office tirade, complaining to a co-worker about people being humiliated for fun on reality TV and abusive talk show hosts using racist and sexist humor under the guise of being “edgy.” He says, “It's the same kind of freak show distraction that comes along every time a mighty empire starts collapsing. American Superstars (which looks a lot like “American Idol”) is the new Coliseum, and I don't want to participate in a show where the weak are torn apart every week for our entertainment. I'm done now. Everything is so cruel, I just want it all to stop ... Why bother having a civilization anymore if we no longer are interested in being civilized.”
In short order, Frank loses his job, and his doctor tells him he has a brain tumor and doesn't have much time left to live. He decides to kill himself, but then he decides to kill someone else first, a spoiled, obnoxious high school girl, Chloe (Maddie Hasson), who stars on her own reality TV show. Frank kills her “because she is not nice.” This reminds me of another movie, “Keeping Mum” about a kind of similar killer. The elderly killer, played by Maggie Smith, never understood why it was wrong to kill annoying people.
A girl from the same school, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) sees Frank kill the girl and follows him back to his motel. She approves of Chloe's murder, and she convinces Frank that he should continue in this manner to make his message understood. Roxy tells Frank, “With so many horrible people in the world who should be taking a big dirt nap, why quit now? You kill yourself, Frank, and you're killing the wrong person, which would be a shame when there are so many other Chloes out there who need to die.”
Like Bonnie and Clyde, the two embark on a Quixotic cross-country trip shooting antagonistic, boorish people, like a guy who takes up two parking spaces with one car and some people who talk on their phones during a movie in a movie theater. All manner of annoying, hateful, selfish people are shot by the pair as they travel around the country. Among those who are killed by the pair is a talk show host who seems very similar to Bill O'Reilly, and some anti-gay protesters who seem very similar to the controversial protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church.
The movie isn't all about blood and killing, although there is plenty of that. A good deal of time is spent exploring the relationship between Frank and Roxy. It is a Platonic relationship, almost like father and daughter. Why Roxy wants to be a killer is never explained in the movie. She seems too cheerful to be a killer. She seems to be having a good time killing people, with no sign of remorse. But she does have the same anger towards bullies and antagonistic, uncaring people as Frank does.
The reason this film appealed to me is that I am bothered by the very same things that Frank is bothered by in the film, the hateful, divisive talk show hosts on Fox News, who comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted, while committing the abominable sin of depicting kindness as weakness, the hate-spewing, publicity-seeking protesters of the Westboro Baptist Church, the smug, insensitive, sneering gossip mongers on TMZ, the awful reality TV shows that prey upon the weak, the disturbed, the mentally incompetent. I was also drawn to a similar kind of film long ago, Jules Feiffer's “Little Murders” (1971).
The people targeted by Frank and Roxy seem to attack the weak in packs like hyenas, tearing them down, sometimes to the point where the victims of this televised cruelty commit suicide. This is all so despicable, so evil, so troubling that you almost can't go too far in opposing it. Frank and Roxy do go too far. This kind of behavior hated by Frank and Roxy is encouraged and rewarded in our society. This film raises the question, what would happen if this behavior was punished?
Of course this movie is not advocating violence. It isn't serious about the violence. This killing is all done to serve up some very dark, very funny comedy, along with its message about the lack of civility in society. Message received. This film rates an A.
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