In the next few days, Frank will lose his job, become completely estranged from his young daughter, and be diagnosed with brain cancer. It's like a nihilistic parody of Akira Kurosawa's 1952 Ikiru, in which a fatally ill, unloved middle-age bureaucrat, played by Takashi Shimura, is forced to find meaning in what life he has left. Shimura's character exchanges a wasted life for selfless action, turning a cesspool into a public playground; Frank, however, decides to waste those responsible for the cesspool that America has become—starting with an ungrateful brat he sees on a program that's clearly based on MTV's My Super Sweet 16.

A veteran, Frank is a crack shot and quickly gains an admiring groupie in Roxy, a high school classmate of his first victim, who tags along to spur Frank into a program of cleansing cross-country killing, targeting members of a Westboro Baptist Church–type group, a bullying right-wing TV host, Tea Partiers, and even some nonpartisan assholes. (Lucky for Alice Cooper, they don't seem to recollect that he voted for Bush.) I cannot remember an American movie that has painted such a vulgar picture of the pop-culture landscape since Idiocracy or Ghost World—the latter of which also, curiously, revolved around the mutually revitalizing relationship between a middle-age male misanthrope and a teenage female version of same, though Frank is exceedingly careful to maintain decorum with the underaged Bonnie to his Clyde. ("So we're platonic spree-killers?" she asks, disappointed.)

The brief filmography of choke-voiced stand-up and God Bless America writer-director Goldthwait boasts some real black-comic accomplishments, including 1992's Shakes the Clown—a dirty-joke burlesque of the spiritual cost of life in the comedy industry—and 2009's World's Greatest Dad, with Robin Williams grappling over how to grieve the death of a son who hardly deserved grief.

Johnny Depp's killer hygiene
Warner Bros. Pictures
Johnny Depp's killer hygiene

Details

Dark Shadows
Directed by Tim Burton
Warner Bros.
Opens May 11

God Bless America
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Magnet Releasing
Opens May 11

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What World's Greatest Dad found in the friction between emotional and intellectual instincts, and what God Bless America lacks, is conflict. Goldthwait's latest doesn't interrogate Frank's warped decency or his conviction that "some folks just need killing" and offers no significant reason to second-guess him at any time. The interplay between Murray and Barr is closely and carefully handled, but when the monotonous squib-popping subsides, the movie is often static and talky, lapsing into criticism-hedging qualifications and anti-everything speechifying ("Nobody talks about anything anymore, they just regurgitate everything they see on TV"). From the film's blinkered POV, there is no such thing as an "innocent bystander," and no perspective is available outside of the all-enveloping disgust of Frank, Roxy, and their doting creator, who absolves their crimes while serving up paper targets and irreverent soundtrack cues.

Goldthwait must understand the irony of a protagonist condemning a society "where the weak are torn apart every week for our entertainment" and "nobody cares that they damage other people" in a movie that revels in the slaughter of the unarmed. And he must, understandably, have thought that any flinch might crack his film's deadpan. But what's less obvious is what this turkey shoot is meant to do, aside from providing a like-minded audience the vicarious cathartic thrill of watching a douchebag apocalypse—which Piranha 3D did with more élan and no self-righteousness. God Bless America adopts the scorched-earth moral certitude and guiltless body count of the "angry white male" Reagan-era action movie while turning the jingoistic politics inside out. It's such a carefully studied parody, you might think you're looking at the original.

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6 comments
Utah Bubble
Utah Bubble

Nick... come on man... why don't you just say what we all are thinking... Tim Burton jumped the shark a long time ago. His movies are as predictable as President Obama's economic strategy, but Burton doesn't have someone he can keep laying the blame on because Depp is too popular.

You actually had to bring up a film that is almost 20 years old to give your readers hope that perhaps Tim Burton's career has a better chance of making a comeback than the Celtics.

In the end Burton would be best off having only Nanci Pelosi critique his films. This way he can thank her for telling everyone they need to see the movie in order to know whether it is good or not!

Still, I enjoyed your comments as did George W. Bush, and thanks to men like GWB and our current CIC we need better movies because it's one of the few ways we can escape the past 20 years of solidly bad leadership in our country!

UtahBubble... the name explains itself!

Zoho
Zoho

the BLACK CUBE OUTSIDE UNITED NATION'S is in evil sybolism represents saturn,satan.....,,a cube flying thru sky being chipped off ! to destroy earth is ther real plan ! not protect it..... absolon 2001 ''now you'll see the reality of nwo ! guy chained down....,city of lost children,join us help build new good earth ! with trailer with eye on it and triangle of nwo....occupy toronto thay did triangle hand signs.......chanting together... many fronts,many tricks..draco reptilin dinosaur dna pincture of the dragon.... head is rothchild or rokafeller...,,rothchild is head consultant to nigeria in united nation's.......

Zoho
Zoho

MARTIAL LAW IMMINENT ! in a film movie lots are owned by illumanti 4 banks,read weishapt illumanti evil manifesto....,evil triangle in this film,the video miss's out the film title....thats not good.......,but alan wats voice over radio on it,is an evil so calle truther,but actually an evil kabalist....,maddona his kabalist,,, there are 9 circles in a network luciferian.......

unsean
unsean

Ok...did someone forget their meds?

Ayn Marx 666
Ayn Marx 666

Writing that sort of thing *is* their meds.

 

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