A prostitute is killed during a bachelor party and the attendees turn on each other as the wedding approaches.
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Very Bad Things
Peter Berg, 1998
At an hour and half long, I think I just watched 50 minutes of grown men yelling at each other that places my mind into a set of a 5th grade class I'm trying to be in charge of. I hate being a teacher.
So, the story of Very Bad Things is as simple as its title implies: good people do bad things. Namely, murder and maim each other. A bachelor party ends up with an accidentally dead hooker. But hey! It's Vegas! Just bury her in the desert. It takes five minutes of excellent character actors Jon Favreau, Jeremy Piven, Leland Orser and Daniel Stern screaming at each other in exactly the way upstanding middle aged men would in the aftermath of manslaughter to set the actual tone of the movie. I say five minutes, and you hear “a short period” but in the movie world, five minutes is an eternity.
We'd been led astray, with goofy soccer mom Lois (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and her camcorder making us think this was a comedy.
I signed up for a comedy. The poster told me so. The cast implied it so! And don't get me wrong, I'm one of those annoying jerks in theatres who laughs at everything from punch lines to zombies getting a croquet mallet in the head to Austen lasses getting rejected at a dance. My favorite comedies include Heathers and American Beauty.
I also get wet for movies that portray human behavior accurately – see two favorites above. So Peter Berg (wrote and directed) totally nailing how confused these suburbanites are after unexpected and reprecussion-full death is beautiful. The actors are spot on. Each grabs the personality of their character and whines, cries, yells, throws punches exactly as they should. And even though Jon Favreau's character is the protagonist, Christian Slater's character is the one directing action among the friends. That is, he picks up on how not to get caught by police and wrangles his four friends along.
All the following clean up murders and side stepping, also brilliant. It's just not funny. It's just not good watching.
The weird part is that, this easily could have been a comedy. The situations are ludicrous, the soundtrack is ironic and upbeat, Christian Slater and Cameron Diaz's characters are perfect cartoons for serial killing! The rest of the cast and the writing is just, well, too good.
Not to insult Slater or Diaz's jobs here – they are absolutely my favorite part of the whole thing. In fact, Diaz actually steals the damn show. Her 10-12 minutes of total screen time as a bridezilla who is not going to let serial murder get between her and her perfect wedding, are priceless and the best I've ever seen her. She snaps between lovey-dovey and furious in half a second. Not just with her face, with her whole body! She acts with everything she has! You can almost smell her overpriced perfume she's so good.
Since she is the lady who epitomizes the blasé tretment of murder, it is also Diaz who holds the moralistic “covering up your murders is bad” In the end the camera stays on her romping facial expressions as she cleans the house, now orphaned children, gazes at her maimed husband and his maimed best friend and goes a little Jim Carey running into the middle of the street to fall over. Goofy beyond reckoning? Absolutely. She gives me my humor! Berg's last gift is the use of a wide scope lense in a super close up of her now-deranged face, blowing her cartoonish face right up to redeemably funny proportions and then pans out to the stratosphere, leaving our adorable idiot squirming in the middle of the road.
Over all, a little too good a rendition of normal people doing bad things.