Sometimes it takes a gritty, gory little low-budget thriller like Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion’s “Becky” (Quiver Distribution and Redbox Entertainment, 2020, 100 min.) to make me realize in a big way how similar “Die Hard” and “Home Alone” really are. “Becky,” written by Nick Morris and Lane and Ruckus Skye, kind of mashes both movies together with a pinch of “First Blood”-style violence. Lulu Wilson plays the title role, a middle-school kid reeling from the death of her mother, and plenty angry that her dad, Joel McHale from “Community,” is ready to move on, bringing his new girlfriend and her son to their country home for the weekend to bond.
Becky’s having none of it and storms off with the family dog to stew in a makeshift fort/shack she has out in the woods. It’s clear that she knows the property very well. Little does she know that while her dad was picking her up at school, a gang of nefarious prisoners, led by Kevin James, have just escaped and are headed for Becky’s house to get something they need, by any means necessary.
The comparisons to “Die Hard” in particular are well-earned; the filmmakers do as good a job establishing the geography of Becky’s house and the surrounding woods as John McTiernan did laying out the various floors of the Nakatomi Plaza in that 1988 action classic. The family estate also includes a lake and a dock, which come into play when Becky starts picking off the prisoners.
If you’re checking out “Becky” because you think that Kevin James and Joel McHale are really funny on TV, you’ll likely be taken aback at just how brutally down and dirty the movie is — so much so that the following is a bit of a spoiler and a bit of a trigger, so proceed with caution.
There are movies where the dog gets killed and there are movies where the dog doesn’t get killed, and “Becky” is the first kind, OK? I judge these on a case-by-case basis. Don’t ask me why that trope turned me off the whole “John Wick” franchise, but here, I accepted it as part of the movie’s logic. And if you’re already off the “Becky” bus, I understand.
For those still willing to take the trip, I admired Lulu Wilson’s difficult performance – she’s in practically every moment of the film. I hadn’t seen any of her work prior to “Becky,” which makes her all the more surprising in what she has to do during the film. When you don’t have preconceived notions about who an actor is, you don’t know what they’re capable of, and that helps tremendously here. I do think that James and McHale are great comic actors, but it’s nice seeing them stretch unused muscles. James taps into stark, harsh villainy that I’ve never seen him do elsewhere in film or TV.