Talk about a surprise package. One of the year’s best cinematic lessons comes from Bobcat Goldthwait’s ultra violent and ultra confronting God Bless America. Like a lecture given by Quentin Tarantino on the downfall of American popular culture, the film is designed to raise questions (and a few belly laughs) as it massacres its way into your frontal lobe.
Meet Frank (Joel Murray), an ordinary divorcee working an ordinary job and living in an ordinary apartment. Think Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club if he hit middle age. After discovering he has an inoperable brain tumour, Frank decides to go all Breaking Bad and become a criminal. But not just any criminal: he decides to become a serial killer who takes out the dregs of American society. On Frank’s radar are reality TV stars like the Kardashians, American Superstar (really American Idol) contestants, people who use “rockstar as an adjective” and the evil Westboro Baptist Church disciples. “Why have a civilization, when we’re no longer interested in being a civilization?” he laments. And so begins the blood bath – quite literally – as he begins working his way across the country killing the douche bags of the world with the help of a Hit Girl-meets-Juno teenager in the form of Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr).
For anyone smarter than a discarded Lindsay Lohan fetus, Frank’s MO is beyond relatable. He wants to exterminate people who aren’t “nice”: people who are mean, talentless and degrade others. To do this he himself has to commit mean acts (murder, in some cases torture) but all the while his ‘soul’ remains intact. He’s a psychopath, Roxy’s a psychopath, and yet you’re rooting for them because siding with the psychopaths is better than siding with the Real Housewives Of New York.
Just because you choose a side, that doesn’t mean writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait is going to make it easy for you. In fact, nothing about God Bless America is easy. The violence is hardcore and sometimes upsetting, while the long breaks between action never come comfortably – there’s always a slight sense of discomfort to the fairytale. Yet it’s the dialogue that really shines. In fact, I almost considered not actually posting a review and merely inserting paragraphs of Frank’s dialogue into a post. For instance:
Roxy: You're seriously not interested in me at all as a girlfriend?
Frank: What the hell are you talking about? I'm not a pedophile.
Roxy: So we're platonic spree killers?
Frank: Yeah. And that's all.
Roxy: So you can kill a teenager, just not fuck one?
Roxy: Because you think I'm ugly
Frank: It's unethical for me to answer that question because I refuse to objectify a child. I mean that's part of what's wrong in everything. I am not American Apparel. I am not the creep that came up with those Bratz dolls.
Roxy: All men like young girls.
Frank: Oh, that's what society is tryin' to sell ya but you know maybe it’s time for adult males to aim a little bit higher than raping kids. I mean fuck R. Kelly. Fuck Vladimir Nabokov. Fuck Mary Kay Letourneau while we're at it. Fuck Woody Allen and his whole "the heart wants what it wants" bullshit. You know... apparently, that erudite genius' heart wants the same thing that every run-of-the-mill pedophile wants. A young, hairless Asian. Nobody cares that they damage other people.
‘Nuff said. Besides having one of the best names in showbiz, Goldthwait has been a biting comedic force in Hollywood for decades and – excluding the sincere performances from the two leads – most of the film’s merit pours directly from him. It’s almost a genre in and of itself – “action lecture.” God Bless America is equal parts intellectual instruction and gun-totting gore.
Although it may feel a little slow at times and its violence a tad too confronting, God Bless America has one of the most important lessons to teach moviegoers in 2012.
[rating=3] and a half stars.
Note: Keep an eye out for the best on screen credit since Pulp Fiction: Tony V as Pancake Eating Pedophile.
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz