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God Bless America


Stars: Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr, Melinda Page Hamilton, Mackenzie Brooke Smith, Maddie Hasson, Larry Miller, Dorie Barton, Aris Alvarado, Rich McDonald

Director: Bobcat Goldthwait

Although it didn't do it for me, we may have the makings of a cult movie here. Divorced, humiliated at work, and living at a house numbered 5773-and-a-half, where he sits bombarded by stressful and/or grossout reality/trash TV, middle-aged Frank, (Murray, younger brother of Bill) dreams of shooting his squabbling neighbours and their awful baby.

Diagnosed with a brain tumour and fired from his job (for harassment: he sent flowers to a co-worker to cheer her up), Frank decides to make his dreams reality. Setting out to eliminate all those he hates most from watching TV, he's joined on the road by fellow-sympathiser Roxy (Barr), a 16-year-old on the lam (she says) from an abusive stepfather.

Using teddy bears tied to trees for target practice, they start by shooting an appalling teenager (Hasson) seen on TV berating her parents for buying the wrong kind of car for her, and take it from there. On the way, Frank philosophises: 'No one talks about anything any more. They just regurgitate what they see on TV' or 'Why have a civilization is we're no longer interested in being civilised?

Roxy soon finds out he's not interested in her sexually. 'So we're platonic spree killers? she says. And she's right. The killings themselves are fun, if we can so describe them, but the long stretches of dialogue and the fierce intensity of the foul language combine to rob the film of much of its momentum, leaving it as a thing of moments - as when Roxy, spotting Frank's ex, her new lover and her uncontrollable daughter, asks if she can off the lover. 'No,' muses Frank, 'I want him to suffer'.

However, it must be said that Murray, hitherto confined to supporting roles in such films as Lay the Favorite, is right on the mark, and that Barr (distantly related to Oscar-winner Gig Young) is more than a match for him: it's a rarity to hear a US teen actress speak so clearly and with so much conviction. But we and they know, though there are times when we almost empathise with Roxy and Frank, especially when they gun down some noisy cinemagoers, that this far-too-talky odyssey must end in tears. And quite a few of its US-oriented references will fly over the heads of UK audiences.

(There is no copyright date on this film)

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour (unspecified).
105 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 01 Jul 2012