Becky challenges Russell Crowe for 2020’s most unhinged performance

Now playing in cinemas nationwide, Becky is an R-rated tongue-in-cheek thriller about a 13-year-old girl forced to fight against neo-Nazis (led by Kevin James) who have held her family hostage. Led by young talent Lulu Wilson, Flicks writer Liam Maguren explains why she challenges Russell Crowe for the best unhinged performance of the year.

It was only a few months ago that Unhinged, a road rage thriller centred on Russell Crowe being a lunatic, challenged Tenet to be THE film that would save cinema after the pandemic. Unfortunately, we’re still in a pandemic, and neither Unhinged nor Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster have proven to be cinema’s saviour.

At least Crowe, who won an Academy Award for Gladiator and was nominated twice more for The Insider and A Beautiful Mind, could comfortably claim the title for 2020’s most unhinged performance, right?

Maybe not. He’s challenged by a 13-year-old girl in lean thriller Becky which is currently lurking in cinemas right now waiting to pounce on audiences like a blood-thirsty raccoon.

The film stars Lulu Wilson as the titular teen, who’s still reeling from her mother’s death and is constantly at odds with her widower father (Joel McHale). A brief vacation at their lake house was meant to soothe their relationship, but a blunt move to invite his new fiance and her child adds salt to an unhealed wound.

Then the neo-Nazis show up and take everyone hostage. Everyone except the… unhinged… Becky.

It’s a premise that quickly invites comparisons to a viciously violent Home Alone. I’d rather compare it to You’re Next, another film where both the victims and the killers find themselves in the right place at the wrong time.

To say more would risk spoiling the best parts of Becky. Even though the story holds no big surprises, it’s gleefully gruesome deaths are certainly shock-worthy (I physically winced more than once) and while it doesn’t have an excessively high body-count, it makes every single one of them count. I’m guessing the filmmakers visited their local luncheon factory to pull off their impressive practical effects.

Adding to the mound of pleasant surprises is Kevin James, perhaps best known as the burp-sneeze-fart guy in Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups 2. Here, he goes completely against type as a chillingly calm neo-Nazi leader. While the film layers on a dark coat of humour throughout, James isn’t playing any funny business – a performance not too far off Patrick Stewart’s in Green Room.

But ultimately, his composed role is there to highlight Lulu Wilson’s perfectly off-the-rails performance – and she’s truly, terrifyingly terrific. Her unblinking intensity proves unnerving even before the hostage situation, ensuring her violent outbursts aren’t out of the blue.

Much like Russell Crowe’s character in Unhinged, Becky’s been holding a lot of destructive anger inside just waiting to burst, though it comes with the added complexity of a dying childhood and a dead parent. Sure, such grisly explosive rage feels far more believable coming from a middle-aged man than a 13-year-old girl, but the added ridiculousness in Becky makes the gnarly violence far easier to digest. It’s also much more palatable when it’s murderous neo-Nazis on the receiving end than, say, a mum who honked her horn at you.

Though there’s a certain degree of animalistic satisfaction in seeing Becky fight back against her perpetrators, the film never lets you feel easy about this young psychopath-in-the-making. With three major horror properties already in her filmography – Ouija: Origin of Evil, Annabelle: Creation and Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House – Wilson clearly has a knack for dishing out unnerving performances and she delivers a memorable one here.

Just… don’t give her any pointy objects from now on.