“Stick to what you know” is a common term that I have never been a fan of. In the acting world, many actors and actresses catch flack from audiences and critics if they branch out into “different” roles. In Hollywood, “stick to what you know” applies to what genre/style of acting a person is best at. Daniel Day-Lewis is an extremely good dramatic actor, and he “sticks to what he knows” by filming only dramatic roles. On the flip side, someone like Rob Schneider is a comedian, and makes only comedies.
Then there are actors and actresses that take a proverbial leap and make movies completely different from what they are most known for. Adam Sandler, the beloved funny man, occasionally branches out and takes a role in what turns out to be a fantastic drama. “Punch Drunk Love,” “Reign Over Me,” and last years’ multiple Oscar-nominated “Uncut Gems” are just a few of his dramatic turns, all of which feature absolutely great performances by him.
Personally, I have no problem with an actor branching out from what they know and trying different things. Vince Vaughn, well known for his fast-talking funny guy roles, has recently made an entire string of “dark” pictures, from dramatic turns to sinister roles as a literal serial killer. Some of his performances I really enjoyed, and I admittedly got a kick out of seeing a more serious side of him. Others I had a hard time watching, like 2017’s “Brawl in Cell Block 99.” I’m not a mega-fan, but I *like* Vince Vaughn, and that movie was brutal, graphic, and it was borderline traumatizing to watch an actor I like get the snot beat out of him for straight two hours.
Comedian Kevin James is the newest example of someone taking a leap and branching out. Best known for being a funny man in hit sitcoms like “The King of Queens,” and “Kevin Can Wait,” James’ only “dramatic” performance came in 2015’s practically unknown “Little Boy,” where he played a doctor in what could be described as a glorified cameo.
2020, however, brought an extreme swing in terms of branching out: James stars as a complete psychopath in the action/horror movie “Becky.”
Lulu Wilson stars as the titular Becky, a teenager trying to enjoy a weekend getaway with her dad (Joel McHale), his girlfriend, and the girlfriends’ son, at a lake house. Becky and her father have a fight and she flees into the woods, hiding out in a makeshift fort until she calms down and feels she can return home. Without warning, four escaped prisoners – led by James a neo-Nazi psychopath named Dominick – attempt to break into the house. The prisoners are looking for a key that is supposedly hidden somewhere in the house, and finding it will mean some sort of mega-payday for Dominick and his crew. With her family trapped inside, Becky is left outside to fend for herself against the four convicts and save everyone.
Certified fresh with a 70% critics rating on RottenTomatoes, “Becky” took drive-in theaters by storm this past summer due to regular movie theaters being shuttered by the pandemic. An unexpected hit, the film was released early on DVD strictly via RedBox a short time later (because they produced the film), and it made its wide-release debut on September 15th.
Described by multiple critics as a twisted take on “Home Alone,” I found that to be a pretty apt description as I watched – with twisted most certainly being the proper term. Without spoiling, I’ll just say that there is an “eyeball scene” in this movie that will haunt me for the rest of my days. Seriously.
Becky, the seemingly innocent and innocuous teenager that stereotypically shouldn’t stand a chance, turns into what can best be described as a combination of John Wick (from the “John Wick” movies), John McClane (from the “Die Hard” movies), and Kevin McCallister (from the “Home Alone” movies). Left with no other option than to fight back, Becky transforms into a merciless unstoppable force, hell-bent on protecting her family and stopping the bad guys.
James is very good as the lead bad guy Dominick. He at times gets winded with lengthy dialogues, but that is only done to assert how he views himself as some kind of “holier than thou” leader, which ties in with his Nazi-ism. Really though, all you need to know is that he is a violent psychopath, leading a crew of other psychopaths that are ultimately just trying to get rich.
Wilson is fantastic as Becky, who easily morphs back and forth from a helpless and innocent teenage girl to twisted and psychotic in her own way when need be. There are some elaborate set-ups, akin to “Home Alone,” that work only because the movie requires them to work. In real life no such thing would ever happen, but that is the entire point: it’s a movie, it is over-the-top and in-your-face, and most definitely unlike anything you’ve seen before.
So, should you Watch it, or Skip It?
I say: watch it!
I was surprised how much I actually enjoyed the movie, and how it kept surprising me, but also kept me entertained with some well-placed lighter moments and humor. It isn’t just solid fighting and killing, it’s tense, moody, scary, gory, yet also funny.
It’s another one of those types of movies that almost needs to be seen. It is most certainly unlike anything Kevin James has ever done, and if you are like me you’ll be mind-blown at how well he performs in such a role. He definitely has a bright future ahead of him in acting if he keeps churning out performances like this one, instead of just “sticking to what he knows.”
“Becky” is rated R for strong, bloody violence, disturbing images, and language, with a runtime of one hour and thirty-three minutes. It is available to borrow from PPL on DVD.