‘Becky’ Defends Her Home From a Neo-Nazi Kevin James in Gory Thriller
A 13-year-old girl’s already rocky coming-of-age is complicated by the arrival of bloodthirsty neo-Nazi prison escapees in thriller “Becky.” Lulu Wilson plays the title character, a middle schooler who is still feeling the lasting effects of the cancer death of her mother a year earlier. A trip with her father, Jeff (Joel McHale), to their vacation home sounds like a great opportunity for her to unwind, but what she doesn’t expect is the arrival of Jeff’s girlfriend, Kayla (Amanda Brugel), and her little boy, Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe). Over dinner, Jeff and Kayla announce their engagement, and so upset is Becky that she goes into hiding on the property.
Meanwhile, violent prisoner and white supremacist Dominick (Kevin James, showing a very, very different side of himself) is on the run with three of his flunkies, Cole (Ryan McDonald), Hammond (James McDougall) and Apex (Robert Maillet). In case there was any doubt that these are dangerous dudes, on Dominick’s order, they murder a whole family, including young children, in order to steal a car. But nothing prepares them for what transpires when they show up at Becky’s house.
Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion recently spoke with Entertainment Voice about “Becky,” beginning with the unusual casting of James, an actor and comedian best known for starring in the sitcom “The King of Queens” and for playing the title role in “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” “We knew exactly the kind of actor who we wanted for the role, which was somebody who was really charismatic and wasn’t necessarily known for playing bad guys,” said Milott.
Simon Pegg was originally slated to play Dominick, but had to pull out due to scheduling issues. James, who was originally going to play Jeff, stepped up to the plate. “We started talking to Kevin and immediately hit it off in terms of the tone and how we saw that character and his ideas for him. He had a shaved head and a big beard, and we thought, ‘This is perfect,’” recalled Milott. “Things just seem to happen for a reason sometimes.”
As James moved into the role of head villain, McHale, another sitcom actor, stepped in. The former “Community” star shows a wide emotional range as the conflicted dad who has to make difficult choices after his family is taken hostage. Adding to the intensity is the fact that Kayla and Ty are black. McHale’s performance is made all the more impressive by the fact that he was doing a comedy tour at the time of production, which meant he not only had to fly back and forth to the set in Canada, but also put himself in a completely different headspace when filming. “It was really awesome to see his level of commitment and willingness to do what was needed to film, even with all the other work he had to do,” gushed Milott. “Just so much energy and dedication, it was really awesome.”
Inspired by the Korean film “Oldboy” and the works of Quentin Tarantino, particularly “KIll Bill,” Milott and Murnion did not hold back when it comes to the scenes in which Becky initiates a bloody game of cat and mouse with the goons, and the result is a thrilling, gory version of “Home Alone.”
“What really drew us to the project was these moments of revenge,” said Milott. “These heightened, kind of fun moments that are just a ride to watch. We’ve seen it with ‘Oldboy,’ we’ve seen it in Tarantino where the cinematic violence is heightened in a way, and so shocking, that we wanted to try to rise to those levels of intensity.”
Then there’s Becky herself, who quickly goes from a somewhat typical rebellious teen to a determined killer. One has to wonder if this was always inside of her, as Dominick later suggests, or if the trauma in her life led her to tap into her killer instinct. “For us, it was about Becky coming of age in a world surrounded by adults who are morally and ethically a bit corrupt, a bit selfish, and how did that influence how she turned out? We don’t really have the answer. Hopefully, that’s what makes it interesting,” said Milott.
“We liked the idea of exploring how violence can affect a young person,” added Murnion. “She was really pushed to do what she had to do, but there was something that was kinda hinted at that drove her there. We liked exploring that with a character, but having it be kind of morally ambiguous.”
Something else that is ambiguous is the function of a charged object in “Becky,” a key that Dominick previously hid in the house that Becky has taken possession of. He didn’t choose to terrorize Becky’s family at random; he came to that house with a mission. We never learn what the key unlocks, but for reasons that are never fully revealed, both Dominick and Becky are willing to die for it. When asked, Milott describes it as a MacGuffin, much like the suitcase in “Pulp Fiction.” It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as the audience knows it’s important.
“In all actuality, if you find out what it is, it’s a bit disappointing. We know what it is. We’re not going to tell anybody. For us, it’s more just about the idea that it’s really important enough for this guy, Kevin James’ character, to go to the lengths that he’s going to. And even just that question, does Becky know what it’s for? If she does, is that why she’s motivated to do some of the things she’s doing? To us, that kind of ambiguity is really fun in film and leaves it more to the viewer and becomes more interesting than just knowing exactly what it is.”
“Becky” premieres June 5 on VOD.