Sometimes a hit television show or an iconic film role can become a curse for an actor instead of a blessing.  In 1975, Robert Deniro won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Godfather II, but he quickly found himself spending the majority of his subsequent career playing gangsters and criminals.

Robin Williams was a sitcom star and brilliant stand-up comedian in the 1970’s and 80’s until his Oscar-winning role in Good Will Hunting helped him transition into dramas after 20 years as a comedy star. 

Kevin James made a name for himself playing Doug Heffernan, the hapless parcel delivery driver on the hit comedy King of Queens. He was immediately branded the next chunky funny guy following in the footsteps of John Candy and John Goodman. In his follow-up series, Kevin Can Wait, he played a chunky funny retired cop.  Do you see a pattern developing?

So, I was astonished to see Kevin James cast as an escaped Neo-Nazi convict in the new indie thriller Becky.  He transforms himself from a chunky delivery driver in green shorts to a hulking menace with a shaved head and a long dark beard.  He gives a perfectly-modulated performance as a villain and proves that the perennial “funny guy” has some dramatic acting chops. He may have found the key to release himself from sitcom jail. 

The premise of Becky is simple:  a group of escaped convicts comes across a family vacationing at their summer lake home. They need something they stashed in the basement of the home before they were sent to prison, and 13-year-old Becky and her family are standing in their way.  Needless to say, mayhem ensues.

The home invasion genre has become exceedingly popular over the past ten years in indie film.  A single location is easier on the filmmaking wallet.  The majority of Becky takes place in and around the lake house, but the film never feels confined by its smaller budget.  The action shifts from the home to Becky’s “fort” in the woods to the lake and back again.  During its 90-minute runtime, the film never loses its forward momentum and sense of pace. 

Although Becky is not an outright horror film, it’s not for the squeamish. It is graphically violent.  The practical make-up effects and prosthetics work is truly impressive.  The violence isn’t shrouded in blurry CGI effects or choppy editing.  From severed limbs to gouged-out eyes, the gory moments are “in-your-face” realistic and add to the intensity of the action unfolding on screen.              

Ultimately the performances put Becky over the top as a piece of genre entertainment.  As the title character, Lulu Wilson taps into her inner animal and plays Becky as a child who chooses fight over flight when her home is threatened.  Think of it like Home Alone if Macaulay Culkin had chosen to sharpen a bunch of colored pencils, tape them together and stab an intruder to death with them.  Some viewers may find the action a bit sadistic.  I found it to be good genre fun that you shouldn’t take too seriously.

In the pre-COVID world, I regularly attended genre film festivals across North America.  I’ve covered the Chattanooga Film Festival, the Overlook Festival in New Orleans, Cineapocalyse in Chicago, Fantasia Festival in Montreal, and Fantastic Fest in Austin to name a few.  Becky is the kind of hidden gem that I always search for at those festivals.  In a year where COVID-19 has derailed everyone’s festival plans, it’s nice to find a film like Becky to fill that entertainment void.Becky is currently available on all major digital platforms.