Villains

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   Villains
 

Mickey (Bill Skarsgård, "It's" Pennywise) promises Jules (Maika Monroe, "It Follows") that this one will be their last before heading to Florida as they hold up a gas station attired in pigeon and horse head masks.  But Mickey forgot to gas up and they run out of fuel on a rural road there is only one house around that may have something to help them on their way.  But there is something disturbing in the basement and when home owners George (Jeffrey Donovan) and Gloria (Kyra Sedgwick) return, catching them unawares, Mickey and Jules find themselves up against far more dangerous "Villains."

Laura:
Writer/directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen's ("The Stakelander" aka "Stakeland II") amusing little black horror comedy gets most of its laughs from Skarsgård's inspired performance, his porn-stached Mickey a good-natured if cowardly doofus with surprising flashes of inspiration triggered by his girlfriend's devoted belief.  Monroe's a good foil, her straight woman sweet and well-intentioned.  The filmmakers also keep things visually interesting, utilizing oddly framed close-ups, like Jules' 'car wash' in which she swishes her long blonde locks across Mickey's face before both gaze at each other within the protection of her tresses, and other notable shots like a cross sectional view of Jules shimmying up a laundry shoot.  Unfortunately, the story itself isn't up to its execution and it comes in for rather a soft, if somewhat satisfying, landing.

Once they're levered their way into the 70's style split ranch, Mickey and Jules are frustrated by their inability to locate keys for the car in its garage.  Then Mickey's light bulb clicks on - they can siphon its gas for their own car.  They head for the basement to find tools for the job.  Not only do they come up empty, but what they do find is horrifying - a little girl (Blake Baumgartner, TV's 'Fosse/Verdon') manacled to a
water heater.  While Mickey regards this as 'not their problem,' Jules refuses to leave without saving her.  As they search the kitchen for another set of tools, they're surprised by the home's middle-aged owners, the wife clutching a swaddled infant.  Mickey has a gun, but George is smarter and the duo is quickly subdued.

Mickey's handcuffed to a brass bed upstairs to endure a weird come-on by the needy, insecure Gloria while Jules is trussed downstairs with the very nonverbal Sweetiepie as a long stretch of the film goes by with no mention of George (who also sports a moustache, his more Errol Flynn style).  Now, I can watch almost anything, but when they are finally reunited I had to look away for minutes on end as Mickey convinces Jules that they should extract her tongue stud to spring their handcuffs, a scene concluded with George's exuberant shout of 'Who's hungry?!'

"Villains" is an amusing entertainment made by filmmakers whose on set capabilities outweigh their story-telling ability.  Ironically, "Villains" is a rare example of the 'good guys' being more interesting than the bad.   

Grade:  B-

Robin:
Jules (Maika Monroe) and Mickey (Ben Skarsgard) are in love and are the two most inept criminals in history - they rob a gas station and go on the lam but they forget to gas up the getaway car. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, they find an abandoned house as a hide out but quickly learn that it is anything but uninhabited for the “Villains.”

Writers-directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen pair up with a talented cast for an amusing story of the unexpected results of the couple’s impromptu home invasion. Everything seems to be going well - until they investigate the basement. There, they find a 10-year old girl chained in shackles. Then, they meet the couple, George (Jeffrey Donovan) and Gloria (Kyra Sedgwick), who claim the girl is their daughter, Sweetiepie (Blake Baumgartner), and is being punished for being a bad girl. Jules, at least, does not believe their implausible story. Mickey, though, is clueless.

Do not expect “substance” from the screenplay in this good-natured home invasion tale gone weirdly wrong as the tables turn on the invaders. Suddenly, instead of holding the gun and being in control of the situation, the righteous pair becomes the victims. Their captors have no intention of setting them free, either.

While the story has been told before, it is the dynamics of the tiny cast that make “Villains” a different and enjoyable little comedy. These are not good guys and bad guys, at least in the conventional sense. They are more varying degrees of right and wrong, depending on how you look at it.

Ben Skarsgard, scion of Stellan and brother of Alexander, does the “Bill and Ted” cluelessness with his own naïve innocence, while Maika Monroe’s Jules is the brains, however meager, of the criminal pair. Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick are suitably creepy, as is Sweetiepie. All, in front and behind the camera, make for an honestly funny black comedy. I give it a B-.
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