Friday, May 26, 2023

Worth Mentioning - White-Knuckle Determination

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning. 

Cody is disappointed with homegrown violence, impressed by Finnish violence.


The pandemic shut the world down in March of 2020. But a few months later, directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion (working from a script by Nick Morris, Lane Skye, and Ruckus Skye) gifted a nation of shut-ins with a special treat: the thriller Becky, which has been described as an "ultra violent Home Alone”. Playing in drive-ins across America before heading to VOD, Becky earned $1 million at the domestic box office during that troubled time. In the long run, it made enough money and caught enough attention to get a sequel greenlit… and now we have The Wrath of Becky. A sequel that comes from an entirely new creative team, who decided to make a tonal shift that might not sit well with some fans of the original.

One of the charms of the first Becky was that it was played straight. Even though Kevin James was the lead villain, there was nothing comedic about his performance. Becky was a serious home invasion thriller, complete with some solid character moments, which happened to be about an angry teen girl defending herself against the criminals that were messing with her and her dad. And making a bloody mess of them in the process. The sequel, on the other hand, has a goofy, comedic tone. If Kevin James hadn’t lost most of his head by the end of the first movie, he could have come back for this one and given one of his usual comedy performances. It would have fit right in.

The Wrath of Becky comes to us from the directing team of Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote, and they also crafted the story that Angel fleshed out into a screenplay. It has been said that they only had three weeks to get the script together – and the rush is reflected in the finished film, which has some odd, sloppy touches to it. The most irritating being a completely unnecessary narration delivered by Becky.

A quick prologue and some artwork shown during the title sequence allow us to fill in the gaps of what Becky has been up to in the years since the first movie. Now she’s living as a lodger in the home of a kind older woman named Elena (Denise Burse) and working as a waitress. Lulu Wilson reprises the role of Becky and does a fine job with the material she was given to work with, but she and the directors decided to “soften the edges” of her character… Which they somehow think they did by making her someone who now has homicidal fantasies and wishes she could resolve every conflict with violence. Becky is actually a walking powder keg. And the fuse is lit when she crosses paths with members of an insurrection-plotting extremist group called The Noblemen.

Angel and Coote really seem to have enjoyed writing for the Noblemen characters, and Angel even went a step further and cast himself as one of these guys. There’s a stretch of the movie where we’re spending so much time with these chuckleheads, listening to them spew their nonsense, that they almost diminish Becky’s presence in her own movie. Michael Sirow, Aaron Dalla Villa, Children of the Corn’s Courtney Gains, and Seann William Scott – best known for his comedic role in the American Pie films – play the other members of the Noblemen. Scott does a good job of playing against type, just like Kevin James did in the first movie. His character is not comedic. And yet, the movie around him is often so goofy, he could just as well have played his character as a radicalized Stifler.

Becky decides to wipe out this branch of the Noblemen when they kill Elena and steal her beloved dog Diego – who looks to be played by a different canine actor this time around. The problem is, the movie is lackluster to begin with and continues to disappoint when the killing starts. The kills in the first were brutal and accomplished for the most part with improvised weapons like rulers, pencils, a boat motor, a lawnmower. This time Becky has her hands on your typical weapons, and most of the kills are either unimpressive or way over the top. At times the movie verges close to becoming a live-action cartoon… and in the end, it sets up a sequel that could very well go all the way into Looney Tunes territory.

Fans of Becky may be wondering if the sequel addresses the mysterious key that Kevin James was after. It does show up in The Wrath of Becky. Becky still has it with her. A new element is added into the mystery of the key… and Kate Siegel shows up as a character who knows what the key is all about. It’s the most ridiculous scene in the movie. At least until the scene that follows it.

It’s not clear why Milott, Murnion, Morris, and the Skyes didn’t make the Becky sequel themselves. Whether they weren’t asked back, or didn’t want to come back. But it’s a shame they didn’t return, because they might have delivered a follow-up that was more in line with its predecessor. Instead, Angel and Coote took the character and the tone in a direction I did not enjoy following. After watching Becky, I was left hoping for a sequel. The Wrath of Becky was another “be careful what you wish for” learning experience. Diego should have just chewed up the script for this one.

The review of The Wrath of Becky originally appeared on

SISU (2022)

The Finnish action movie Sisu begins with on-screen text explaining the title, which won’t make sense outside of Finland. The word “sisu” has no direct translation, but in Finnish it means a white-knuckled form of courage and unimaginable determination. The movie then gets off to a bit of a slow start, establishing that it’s set in 1944, near the end of World War II. Finland is working to drive the Nazis out of their country – and in response, Nazis are taking a scorched earth approach in Finland. But former soldier Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila) has removed himself from all that. He’s just hanging out in the countryside with his horse and his dog, panning for gold. And we spend the first 15 minutes of the movie in the countryside with him, watching his quiet and secluded life as planes fly overheard and bombs go off on the horizon. This is just the calm before the storm.

15 minutes into the movie, Korpi crosses paths with a platoon of Nazi soldiers. These soldiers are heavily armed – they even have a tank – and have captured a group of Finnish women (including Mimosa Willamo of Lake Bodom), keeping them in the back of a truck to mistreat. And they make the mistake of messing with Korpi. We’ll soon learn that Korpi is a legendary soldier who lost his family in the war and got his revenge by becoming a one-man death squad. He racked up over three hundred kills before he left the war behind. And over the remaining 76 minutes of Sisu’s running time, he racks up a whole lot more kills.

Written and directed by Jalmari Helander, Sisu becomes little more than a montage of frequently over-the-top but always satisfying violence, as Korpi lays waste to this platoon of Nazis. He takes a beating in return, but he’s known as The Immortal, and he certainly seems to live up to that nickname. This guy is as resilient as Jason Voorhees. And yes, there are moments where Sisu threatens to go too far over-the-top, but Helander just manages to walk the line. There are a couple moments that are a bit more ridiculous than I would prefer, but it still manages to work.

Sisu is sort of a Finnish, World War II era take on the John Wick movies. It’s a good time, and something that any fan of the action genre should take a look at. 

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