Home invasion movies are a dime a dozen. They’re so numerous in fact that it takes a special mixture of violence, entertainment and story to make the experience stand out. From the simpler days of “Home Alone” to more recent films like “Hush” home invasion flicks have been all about the creativity of the protagonist to get one over on an unsuspecting enemy. The latest addition to this subgenre is “Becky”, an action thriller that stars Lulu Wilson as the titular character, a rebellious and troubled teen who finds herself facing off against a neo-Nazi named Dominick played by Kevin James in his first dramatic role. “Becky” doesn’t really attempt to reinvent any formulas, giving fans of home invasion cinema exactly what they expect. However once you get past the blood and traps you find a film that tries to create its own identity but ultimately promises more than it delivers.
“Becky” is certainly a violent film to say the least packed with all the bloodshed and cringe-inducing moments of satisfying comeuppance for the bad guys that one could hope for. The titular Becky makes for an interesting protagonist, one who I’m not completely sure we’re supposed to like but we definitely cheer for as she comes up with all kinds of practical and creative ways to take on the neo-Nazi’s one by one. It’s a nice mix of violence ranging from “Home Alone” style creativity to more B-movie gore resulting in a flick that’s unapologetically over-the-top but never goes so far over the edge that it feels too ridiculous. It’s just the right amount of insanity really. Sadly though the violence really is all this movie has going for it as it always feels like the filmmakers wanted this to be more than a simple home invasion movie but they never committed to exploring all of their ideas.
Take Becky herself for example. Her story is that her mother died a year before the film takes place and she finds herself at odds with her father who has taken a new fiancée quite quickly. Becky naturally feels things are moving too fast leading her to go off on her own during a getaway at the family home making her the only person away from the house when Dominick and his gang arrive setting the stage for her heroics. The movie hints that Becky might be a much darker individual than we think. Early on she nonchalantly steals gummies from a store and her personality shifts from giddy happiness to disposition faster than a blink. When she finally starts setting her traps it all feels too much like second nature to her and even the final moments of the film hint that maybe there’s a hidden psychopath within Becky almost reminiscent of the final moments of “Psycho”. Lulu Wilson does a fine job in the role even though the script and screenplay don’t do her a whole lot of favors. Aside from the good performance though I feel like Becky as a character is a missed opportunity. We only get hints of what’s inside her mind and it never feel likes the writers or directors want to explore the dark depths of her character even though they are more than willing to show subtle hints that she isn’t the sweet girl we hope she would be. There was so much that could have been delved into, maybe enough to make this a great examination of a young teen’s breaking point, but instead we’re left with unfinished character development that doesn’t really go anywhere truly insightful by the end of the flick.
A lot of the same flaws apply to the handling of the main villain Dominick. Putting Kevin James is a villainous role was always a risk, but it could have worked. We’ve seen comedic actors turn to drama successfully many times before. This might not be the best example of James’ talents by any means due to factors outside of his control, but James just doesn’t feel very intimidating beyond his size and the pretentious dialogue fitting for a white supremacist. We never truly learn why Dominick is invading Becky’s home. We know he’s there to find a key, one that was hidden in that house for an unknown reason and one Becky just happened to find, but we never learn what the key represents or why he wants it. His motivations are never truly revealed in full so we never know what the stakes are her beyond him threatening the family. There’s a small moment where it’s implied Becky’s dad had something to do with it but that never comes to fruition. Dominick feels like he was meant to be something so much more than the generic villain he is. One great moment between Dominick and his sidekick Apex, played by Robert Maillet, is the only time we actually get to see the man beneath the tattoos. I wish we go more moments like that. It shows the potential Dominick’s character could have had to make him more menacing or, hell, even relatable to a degree. But when Apex, the sidekick, feels more relatable and developed than the main villain there’s definitely a problem.
I’m not saying “Becky” isn’t worth the time though. It is fun and I can’t lie it had me fist pumping when certain bad guys were taken out and cringing delightfully when they experienced terrifying bodily harm. For the sick sadist in all of us this is a spectacular effort that pulls few punches. But it’s nothing much more than a bloody home invasion flick where it certainly feels like it should be more. The mysterious key, Becky’s mental state, Dominick’s motivations, why was that house the target…none of these elements or story threads are explored properly so I have to question…why have them in the movie at all? This movie would have been fine as a by-the-books home invasion movie, a few neo-Nazi’s escape and try to find shelter in someone’s home only to start killing people when they’re identities or supremacists values become known or challenged. It’s a winning formula and one this movie feels content to stick to, so why try something different if you’re not going to follow through? That to me is the most frustrating part of this film. It feels like a mishmash of promising ideas that never go anywhere while, ironically, it’s most basic clichés are what actually make it worth the experience in the end.
“Becky” will surely satisfy who it’s meant to satisfy but for me I expected more. Kevin James doesn’t do horribly in his dramatic debut but he still feels miscast. Lulu Wilson does a fine job but Becky as a character, with all the hints at her dark side and her clearly damaged perspective and mental state, feels like a wasted opportunity. The violence is fun and the kills are enjoyably over the top…but the rest of the movie feels frustratingly unfinished. I understand that part of storytelling is show don’t tell, but if we don’t know why the key is important, why the bad guys are there, what makes Becky tick then we don’t know why we have to care. Either just tell us or do a better job showing us. Either approach would have made this film more engaging. “Becky” could have been a clever examination of a teens dark mental state or how sometimes there’s no true hero in a war of psychos, but instead it forsakes everything it could have been in favor of being exactly what I think it always wanted to be. A decent effort but one that fell well short of my expectations.