God Bless America Review

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Loveless, jobless and both terminally disenfranchised and ill, Frank (Murray) has had enough of the dumbing down of American culture. He takes his gun and goes on a road trip with 16 year-old Roxy (Barr), offing society’s stupidest and cruellest members.


Who hasn't sat in front of Saturday-night TV and imagined blowing away the celeb-hungry members of the Big Brother house or the sneering panel on The X Factor, or felt unadulterated rage when the person next to you in the cinema pulls out their phone and starts texting? Presumably, director and writer Bobcat Goldthwait feels your pain. His satirical and violent tirade against the ills affecting American culture is an exercise in vigilantism and occasional intellectual elitism; it’s also, among the bloody corpses, bone fragments and discourse of a country going to hell, really very funny.

Much of the credit for ensuring the film’s centre holds comes down to the seemingly benign Frank (Joel Murray), estranged from his wife and a daughter who is slowly becoming a product of the cultural malaise that Frank so detests. Upon being told that he has an inoperable brain tumour, Frank decides to take action. Deciding to off Chloe (Maddie Hasson), a particularly appalling high-school princess with her own reality TV show, Frank sets the tone for the rest of the film. His brutal assassination of the girl is clumsy, bleakly funny and shockingly violent, but it’s enough to impress the teenage Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who teams up with the rudderless Frank and persuades him to parlay his act of retribution into a sustained campaign.

So begins a road trip that’s high on implausibility — it feels like the pair aren’t even destined to be pursued by the police — and riffs on US cultural malaise. Roxy’s endless lists of would-be victims are tempered by Frank’s yearning for common courtesy and a more caring world, albeit one where he gets to shoot people in the face. The sparkling dialogue — the bloody attack in the cinema is as cruel as it is clever — keeps the film afloat, with verbal barbs lacerating everything from inane celebrity culture to the cult of Diablo Cody. That and the growing bond between Frank and Roxy, plus the fact that the film takes a surprising U-turn, lifts it above the basic premise of a disgruntled man shooting down a world in which he no longer fits.

Part road trip, part revenge movie, this is a tentative tale of a man who’s not going to take it anymore, sharp on the fallibility of human foibles and sometimes stingingly funny, too.