Hell hath no fury like a 13-year-old girl scorned. Or crossed. Or given a nickname she’s outgrown.
Or God forbid, one who’s lost her mother, seen her father tortured and witnessed unspeakable cruelty to her DOG at the hands of escaped convicts!
“Becky” is a gory, not-quite-gonzo B-movie thriller about such a teen under such circumstances. And the blood-curdling screams Lulu Wilson (TV’s “The Haunting of Hill House”) unleashes after she’s worked up a fury will, you know, curdle your you-know-what.
The movie, from the filmmakers behind the solid actioner “Bushwick,” kind of lets her down. As do the adult leads. You can cast Joel McHale as Becky’s tortured dad and cuddly Kevin James as her skinhead tormentor, but that doesn’t mean they’re up to it.
I could’ve sworn McHale was fighting back a smirk as he acted opposite “The King of Queens/Paul Blart” as James grabs a hot poker out of a fire for a little branding of his victim.
Neither one believed the other, in character. Why should we?
Wilson is the sullen kid who has her reasons. She hangs onto the video of visits with her dying mom on her cell phone, resents the nickname Dad (McHale) still calls her — “Chipmunk” — and isn’t HEARING this news that he’s ready to re-marry, to the fair Kayla (Amanda Brugel of “The Handmaid’s Tale”), with her little boy Tye (Isaiah Rockliffe) a part of the bargain.
But the house they’re weekending in the country in wasn’t always Dad’s. There’s a reason the savage “Brotherhood” (“Aryan” is implied) guys who made their carefully-plotted escape from prison transport have made their way to it.
Everybody else is trapped when the four of them, led by Dominick (James) and his hulking lieutenant Apex (Robert Maillet), come to the door.
But Becky is off in her playhouse/fort in the woods when this happens. And once it’s established that she’s gotten away and she might have access to what Dominick came there for, it’s gruesome, gory game on.
Becky’s a bad liar — “The cops are coming!” But she proves to be a badass as she faces the racist thugs one at a time.
The script’s cleverness lies in the ways she has of evening the odds, the bloodier the better. The script’s weakness is most everything else.
Armed men come up to the “fort,” setting up the stupidest “stand-offs” ever.
“Go AWAY!” Except when, in the odd moment when a man-mountain of an adult gets his hands on Becky, she changes that to “Let me GO!”
Granted, if you’ve ever been around a 13 year-old girl with a furious/rebellious streak, that’s kind of in-character — irrational and insistently shrill.
James’s lines as Dominick have a polish that prison didn’t give him.
“Prepare yourself, Becky. You’re about to find out what happens when you LIE to me!”
James works so hard to underplay this guy that much of the malevolence we need from the Dominick evaporates.
People are injured, but the players don’t play the agony they must be in from a bullet through the thigh or the loss of an eye.
Brugel is one adult who doesn’t let down the side. But even her little moments of spitting fire can’t fix the Achilles heel of any thriller that doesn’t work.
There’s no urgency, here. Nobody’s in a mad dash to get this thing that they came there for before the cops find them. Nobody panics, freaks out or whimpers in fear and misery. Even the kids.
B-movies as a genre come with a lot of givens, the chief of which is “We know what they’re doing, know where they’re going and have an idea of what’s going to take us there.”
Movies like “Becky” don’t work when the villains don’t go all in and when the pace flags to the point where we notice the clunky dialogue and less than involving performances.
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, and language
Cast: Kevin James, Joel McHale, Amanda Brugel, Robert Maillet and Lulu Wilson as “Becky”
Credits: Directed by Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion, script by Nick Morris, Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye. A Quiver release.
Running time: 1:33