Sunday, July 12, 2009

Very Bad Things (1998)

Starring Jon Favreau, Christian Slater, Cameron Diaz, Jeremy Piven, Daniel Stern, et al
Rated R, 100 minutes

I recently reviewed a movie about a trip to Vegas gone wrong ("The Hangover") so why not do another?

Present day - Kyle (Favreau) is nervously awaiting his wedding. Flashback to a few days ago. A trip to Sin City brings on the usual drinking and gambling. This being a bachelor party, there's also a stripper. While the rest of the troupe gets rowdy over drugs and a UFC fight, Michael (Piven) has sex with the hired hand in the bathroom. She ends up impaled on a wall fixture. Now they have a murder on their hands.

Michael's brother Adam (Stern) lashes out at Michael's usual stupidity. He wants to call the police. Fellow friend and unscrupulous real estate agent Robert (Slater) wants them to weigh the options. Call the police? Or bury her in the desert? Soon, security comes upstairs. And soon, they'll have two problems to put six feet under. Kyle's fiancee (Diaz) has already cracked planning the wedding. What will happen when she figures out what went down in Vegas?

The acting here was outstanding. Christian Slater was downright engaging. It's quite the assembly of actors and actresses. Jon Favreau, Daniel Stern, Jeremy Piven, Cameron Diaz, Jeanne Tripplehorn.

Several of them get a chance to shine here. There's a lot of scenes where the drama or comedy reaches a fever pitch, and the excitement came right through me sitting in my chair. I was tingling. This is a dark comedy to say the least. Despite all the very bad things going on, the right mix would hit me and I'd laugh. Perhaps I was given the idea to laugh from all the pre-viewing blurbs telling me it was a comedy. It was in the tagline - "A very savage comedy. Tell no one." Perhaps my moral compass needs to be remagnetized. Then again, I'm rarely offended, and fully accept this as fiction.

Would this have worked as a drama? I don't think so. You get the payoff of everybody basically being unhappy at the end. Cameron Diaz's character gets her wedding, but her husband is without his legs, and she's taking care of kids that aren't hers with no additional financial help. It's twisted, but it shows the audience the end result of all their maniacal ways. Without the edge of humor, it becomes a sorrowful tale where everybody is terrible. Instead, we cheer happily against our fallen stars.

The enjoyment of this movie grew exponentially throughout, reaching a practical sensory overload by the latter portion. You think it will twist in a predictable, but still cool way, and then it blindsides you with something else. In the end, they all turn out to be very bad people. Hell, from the start, they were doing blow in the hotel room. Their own values were a little off to begin with.

Searching around the net, there's pretty clear lines drawn on this one. It has less than favorable ratings at Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.


I'm on the "love" side of love/hate. It was too powerfully entertaining for me to score it any less.

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