Very Bad Things Review

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When a stag night goes wrong and ends in the murder of a prostitute, the men go to desperate measures to cover up her death.


It may be that the next hot trend will be youthful ensemble black comedy, and this debut effort from writer-director Peter Berg - best known as a nice-but-dim character in the likes of Shocker, Late For Dinner and The Last Seduction - will stand as a transition between fringe efforts like The Last Supper, Scream and Dead Man's Curve and more mainstream, less extreme sick-coms. It feels like a bigger movie than any of its predecessors, with a shaky A-list cast and flamboyant effects, but is a little broader, blunter and less funny, with a tendency to rely too much on shtick we've seen already - especially as Christian Slater and Cameron Diaz play riffs on their roles in Heathers and My Best Friend's Wedding.

Revisiting the setting of early Tom Hanks comedy vehicle Bachelor Party, it starts out with yuppie bridegroom Keith (Favreau) nervously waiting in the church while flashing back to a stag weekend that got seriously out of hand. Along with his buddies - underachiever Charles (Leland Orser), real estate psycho Robert Boyd (Slater), feuding brothers Man (Piven) and Michael (Stern) - Keith hits Las Vegas for the expected orgy of booze and drugs, but things go wrong when Man's bathroom romp with a stripper-hooker ends up with the girl dead and Boyd murders a security guard to cover up the killing. With the victims dismembered and buried in the desert, the gang gets increasingly paranoid and Boyd decides to clean house by killing anyone he thinks will crack and go to the cops.

The film has a real sense of a situation slipping out of control, with marvellous displays of hysteria matched by movie trickery that spreads the edginess to the audience. Stern, in particular, has a great freak-out moment and all the actors eagerly seize the chance to go into hyperdrive during the party and argument scenes. Though the premise is workable, Berg tends to have too many scenes turn into headache-inducing shouting matches with little verbal wit. Slater is excellent as the estate agent hopped up on Self-Actualisation therapy, but we've seen his act before, which leaves the surprises to Cameron Diaz, extending her range in a furious finale. Though the title means unimaginative critics are bound to tag it with the "very bad film" label, it won't deserve such a drubbing - but it's not a very good one either.

A black comedy which is not as smart as it thinks.