Review: God Bless America

As our culture progresses, or perhaps regresses would be more appropriate for this film, there are definitely some habits and traits that have become socially accepted despite being ignorant or generally idiotic, and that’s very where this film begins. In a society where people have lost dignity, kindness and general human decency one man, Frank (Joel Murray) has been pushed to his limit, so finding out he is terminally ill, he takes it as an opportunity to rid that society of its most repellent inhabitants, or in other words go on a killing spree, with the help of teenage accomplice Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr).

The acting in this film is relatively difficult to judge being the type of film that runs the line of spoof and exaggerated reality, despite that the protagonist is at his basic, a grumpy, middle-aged man who hates everything society is turning into, Murray makes him surprisingly watchable but that’s about as far as the benefits extend. The downfalls of that being he is just a grumpy man, he’s not exceptionally clever or unique and is for the entirety simply irritable. Attempting to spice that up a little is Roxy (Barr) who’s relationship with the lead Frank is somewhat unusual and whereas age differences have been used before in films like Léon, this feels much less of a perfect partnership and there’s very little to bring the two together. Barr in general however does a good job, her perky attitude mixed with hatred and violence is spot on for the film, however the integration and story arch for her character is an issue but she gives a good performance in spite of that.

Most people have had one or several moments where someone has been rude to them, or ignorant or just done something plain horrible and thought that perhaps that person needs a slap back to reality (to put it politely) but of course we’re all civilised enough to not do anything about it, but this film does everything you may have thought of doing, but never would. That basic set up of shocking the audience with violent reactions to ignorant behaviour is at first fantastic, but as the film winds on the shock factor wears off and then it doesn’t really have much else to offer. The comedy is present but despite a few laughs feels rather weak, because of the more spoof than dark nature to it the violence is plentiful but watered down, all of that boils down to that it doesn’t create characters to relate or connect to and the story is overly simple. The idea for the film was a good one but the execution is disappointing, the script lacks sharpness and quick wit, the story lacks direction and feels lightweight and the characters are nothing particular to take interest in.

A film with the intention of highlighting all the ways in which current society rewards bad and selfish behaviour and does not value kindness and generosity in a very exaggerated and violent manner, is a great basis and makes watching it at first quite entertaining but there needs to be more to it and here there is not. It could be shortened into a 10 to 15 minute short film and be great but it isn’t so here it starts off well and drifts off into territory with little direction, the characters are simply of face value with no depth and any attempt at emotion or connection is nowhere to be found. In some ways this feels like one man’s attempts to get his annoyances at society out in film, but coming from the same man that brought us the massive waste of Robin William’s talent that was World’s Greatest Dad, the disappointment is not all that much of a surprise. As a side note it’s also a fairly good advert for why increased gun control is a good idea.

Verdict: 4.5/10

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