A punk-rock after hours about femininity, masculinity and the theft of $68,000.
August 4th, 2017
Bryan Smith (novel)
Matthew Gray Gubler
68 Kill is a new crime spree comedy from writer/director Trent Haaga (from the novel by Bryan Smith) and it has oodles of exploitation inspiration, plenty of “holy crap that’s awesome” gore and strong performances from a diverse cast.
Here’s the skinny:
Matthew Gray Gubler (Suburban Gothic, Criminal Minds) is Chip. His sad day job involves draining septic systems and his eccentric and power-hungry girlfriend Liza (Annalynne McCord) turns tricks to keep their rent paid. When an opportunity to get their hands on $68k arises, Liza convinces slacker and doormat Chip to help her pull it off – in the hopes of finding a new and happier way of life. Through a series of events which include murder, kidnapping and dismemberment – Chip starts to believe that the love of his life Liza, may be a bit much to handle, what with her now apparent psychotic behavior. As the money switches many hands and Chip bonds with their kidnappee Violet (Alisha Boe of Paranormal Activity 4 and 13 Reasons Why), he also starts to find his true self and the buried strength to stand up for himself. In amongst all of this self-discovery, there is also plenty more murder, gore, double-crossings and wackiness.
Gubler has proven himself time and time again to be any film’s secret weapon. To look at, he’s adorable and he so effortlessly plays a schlub or an outcast or a wall-flower. What’s different from his work in two noteworthy Ricky Bates’ projects (Trash Fire and the aforementioned Suburban Gothic) is that here, his character seems to experience a more distinct development – there’s a journey.
The scene between Chip and Violet (a terrific supporting turn from Boe) – as they lie together in bed, confessing themselves to one another – is an easy highlight, and a surprisingly emotional moment in an over-the-top comic crime-bloodfest. Both Gubler and Boe bring forth some real emotion and the matching tears. It’s heartfelt and sort of out of place in a film like this, but a very memorable and impressive scene nonetheless.
Annalynne McCord is perfectly cast as Liza, the pushy and apparently insane lover to Chip. McCord is a beauty to be sure, but it’s her domineering attitude as Liza which will most attract you to the character. As written, Liza’s pretty one-dimensional – Liza’s simply crazy. But McCord brings a ton of life to what she’s given. In addition to her great line deliveries, she’s also adept at some fun physical comedy – notably when she continues to pass out following a nasty blow to the head.
There are plenty of supporting performances worthy of praise – as Chip continues this road trip. Of note is Sam Eidson as Liza’s equally cuckoo brother Dwayne. Every moment he’s on screen, you’ll be laughing your ass off. And just when you think Dwayne is down for the count, he returns and offers up plenty more gross comedy. And as the goth “Hot Topic” (my favorite bit of dialogue) gas station attendant Monica, Sheila Vand (known for the title character in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) is an absolute gem.
On that note – I appreciated the recurrence of several (what you’ll expect to be one-hit wonders) supporting characters. We get to see both Monica and Dwayne multiple times before the film’s out and unlike say – a David Lynch film – where random folks appear and we never hear from them again – we get closure for these folks… as well as all the goodness their characters offer.
The proceedings in the film are all pretty grotesque – keeping in line with the film’s exploitation inspirations. But it’s all done in good, goofy fun. That’s not to say that it won’t turn some viewers off. There are jokes about rape, incest and snuff films (as well as that graphic gore) – but dammit, I found it funny. You just might too (if you’re into that sort of thing – fair warning).
The film is far from perfect – with several stops and starts in the overall pacing. It was nothing detrimental, but it sometimes felt like it lost its footing – and that becomes a distraction. Thankfully, it recovered and the climax is something legendary in its violence and gore factor. The insane (and insanely entertaining) final scene makes the entire trip worth it.
The gore is (pardon me) to die for and every single time you’ll be hooting and hollering about how much fun it is – in that brilliant climax and also when we visit Dwayne at his place.
Surprisingly, the aforementioned character journey in 68 Kill brings up a deeper societal issue/argument. That of the ever-present battle of the sexes. At the film’s outset, Chip is a lazy doormat – letting anyone and everyone walk all over him – particularly the ladies. And he happily allows it – if it pleases the other party – particularly the ladies. So as the film goes on, he grows a set and slowly but surely takes control of not only his life, but this wacky situation in which he finds himself. This comic look into the life of a dude who lets the woman bring home the bacon, was a nice extra bit of detail in a film where you wouldn’t expect anything particularly deep. I’m not taking a stand either for or against the men or the women in general – it’s just interesting that this was addressed in a gory crime film. And the final choice made by Chip is very telling of the new journey he’s begun.
There’s plenty of visual humor throughout the film as well. One of my favorite bits finds Chip looking through a hotel lost and found box for some clothes. What he comes up with is inspired, and Gubler ends up wearing this ridiculousness for the rest of the film. And the introduction of Dwayne’s new pastime and Chip’s initial understanding of said pastime – it’s comic gold!
With fun performances, a violently gory and sick sense of humor and call-outs to exploitation films of the past, 68 Kill is quite a good time.
68 Kill is currently shooting across the film festival landscape (including a recent showing at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal), and is scheduled for wider release on August 4th, 2017.