Friday, 23 January 2015

DVD Review - God Bless America

First Published for Front Room Cinema in 2012...

There are a few things in life that frustrate me far more than they really should. The popularity of reality TV shows and the fame hungry individuals who partake in them is one of these and inconsiderate people who talk on their phone during a cinema screening is another pet hate of mine. I would relish the chance to rid the world of these evils once and for all and for that reason God Bless America resonated with me on a level I never would have expected when going into the film.

From director Bobcat Goldthwait, this scathing attack on popular culture is an exceptional follow up to his underrated black comedy World's Greatest Dad which slipped under the radar two years ago and I am determined not to let this happen with his latest release. Joel Murray stars as Frank, a middle aged man not too far removed from Michael Douglas' character in Falling Down, who is understandably disheartened after being diagnosed with a terminal illness and becomes a vigilante killer in an attempt to restore some semblance of a purpose to his mundane existence.

Accompanied by Roxy, a like-minded young teenager played by the excellent Tara Lynne Barr in what I hope will be a breakout role, Frank sets out to right the wrongs he encounters and the duo form a friendship which brings death and violence to those foolish enough to demonstrate a lack of concern for humanity. Numerous comparisons can and have been made to films featuring an unlikely duo heading out on a rampage but God Bless America makes the brave move of introducing realistic characters with believable motives and remains funny throughout despite the often graphic depiction of violence.

There is a hilarious sequence in which Frank's migraine worsens as he watches a series of brilliantly executed over the top adverts which are not a world apart from Paul Verhoeven's satirical commercials in Robocop and Starship Troopers. It is this satirical edge that makes Goldthwait's film stand apart amongst its peers and provides the audience with food for thought as well as slick entertainment. The classic rock soundtrack featuring the likes of Alice Cooper and the Kinks is the perfect accompaniment to the comical violence alongside the inspired choice of Bjork's 'Oh so quiet' in one of the film's standout scenes.

God Bless America is a darkly comical film that pulls no punches in its attack on stupidity and mindless entertainment. Its ironic title clearly emphasises the director's views of his own country and whilst I have read criticisms of the film's overly political slant this does not detract from the entertainment value of what is a finely crafted comedy. Forget your superheroes; Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne may need their alter egos but Frank is just a middle aged man fighting for what he believes in, without a costume or any special powers, only with a desire for justice. God Bless America indeed.