Listen, any film which pays respect to Alice Cooper is always going to be a winner in my book, but one which updates and possibly upgrades many of the ideas of Natural Born Killers whilst retaining a viciously dark humour and which features a number of outstanding performances, well that may mean we have a classic on our hands.
I believe this is the first film I have seen by Bobcat Goldthwait, but I’ve been a big fan of his since the Police Academy days. The film is more satirical than his most popular stand up and previous movie routines and performances, maybe that’s because he’s behind the camera here, or maybe he’s older and wiser, or most likely of all maybe he’s just a comedian and can do whatever the hell he likes. Pointing a gun at the face of the audiences and purveyors of self-obsession, vapid voided celebrities, and the spoiled, rich, morality free, God Bless America is equal parts road movie, comedy, thriller, and political diatribe – a plea to not let the system get you down, get in your way, or suck you in.
The film starts with a horrific day in the life of average white American man Frank, played with a weary gravitas by Joel Murray – his character a cross between Michael Douglas in Falling Down and Victor Meldrew from One Foot In The Grave. He is presented as a lonely, good sort of bloke – man whose wife left him, whose teen daughter has turned into a Paris Hilton wannabe, who has been fired from his job for trying to perform a good deed, and who has been informed of having terminal cancer – it’s enough to make anyone snap. On the verge of killing himself, he catches an awful reality show about self-interested teens and has a better idea – kill them and leave the world a better place. In performing this deed he finds an unlikely, unhinged ally in Roxy – another teenage girl who is sick of the rich and the worthless, and together they embark on a fun adventure across the States to kill those who they deem the most undeserving of life – bad people who only exist to further their own interests and don’t care about others. It’s not exactly Dexter, but in many ways it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining.
I enjoyed the relationship between the two central characters – both actors give strong performances and relish the carnage they unleash, spitting their way through the none to subtle but nevertheless relevant and quotable dialogue. There is a pleasing amount of violence and while it never gets as overblown as Natural Born Killers there is definitely a cartoonish element. I see pleasing because it gives the same sort of catharsis as sticking on a first person shooter videogame and blasting our way through hordes of virtual enemies. The people killed on screen are ever so slightly skewed and more extreme versions of plenty of people who populate our real lives and media nowadays, and while the film in no way advocates taking up arms against them, it does raise many important questions about why these people, these hate-filled, poisonous entities, are placed on the highest of pinnacles and allowed to wield so much influence and power.
If you lean to the right in politics or religion or because you have a curve in your spine, then this movie won’t be for you; it it clearly for the left, albeit a consciously knowing, self-deprecating left with a lively sense of humour. If you don’t feel particularly politically inclined, then there is plenty to enjoy here too – don’t assume that the film spouts agendas from every squirting orifice – mostly it’s just two people romping around the country killing people who are presented as deserving of brutal deaths, all the while joking and listening to kick ass music. As someone who also despises the sorts of reality shows and celebrity shows that are mocked here (ironic given the amount of love given on this site to famous people – the difference being that those features on this blog are usually highly talented) I found the movie said a lot of the things which I have felt over the years. The film deserves to reach a much wider audience than it did upon release, and although it has since attained some sort of cult status, it is not a film you hear being talked about very often. Released at a time when school and public shootings are constantly in the news, the film suffered rather than thrived because of its relevance. If you don’t mind being possibly offended, and if anything in my review sounds like the sort of thing you might enjoy then I have no doubt that you’ll have a great time watching this – highly recommended.
Let us know in the comments if you have seen God Bless America and what you made of it!