out of Five
Running time: 100
Bobcat Goldthwait's follow up to Sleeping Dogs and World's Greatest Dad is an entertaining black comedy that takes some satisfying pot-shots at some very deserving targets, but the script quickly leaves itself with nowhere to go and the second half is disappointing.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, God Bless America stars Joel Murray as Frank, a disillusioned office worker who discovers that he has a terminal illness, so he snaps and embarks on a killing spree in order to take out the worst elements of today's media-obsessed society. After shooting spoiled brat reality TV star Chloe (Maddie Hasson), Frank strikes up an unlikely friendship with angry 16 year old Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who enthusiastically decides to join him on his mission.
Frank and Roxy's targets include blow-hard right-wing TV pundits (an enjoyably thinly-veiled attack on Fox News), people who commit hate crimes and even people who talk loudly during cinema screenings. Soon the media is actively celebrating them (while also blaming “Obama Death Squads”) and their list of targets grows ever longer. But where will it all end?
Joel Murray is superb as Frank, his likeable hangdog expression going a long way towards keeping Frank sympathetic, despite his various crimes. Tara Lynne Barr is equally good, though her angry-ball-of-energy schtick will be very familiar if you've seen Ellen Page in Super (as will several other elements of God Bless America).
The frequently funny script takes some highly enjoyable pot-shots at some very deserving elements of modern day media-obsessed culture and the film's main trick is that you frequently find yourself nodding in agreement; basically the film works best as a sort of cathartic rage distributor, delivering violent wish-fulfilment by the bucket load.
The main problem with the film is that, having laid out its cards early on (Frank has a lengthy speech before he even begins his killing spree that basically name-checks every target), Goldthwait leaves it with nowhere to go in the second half, so it quickly becomes repetitive. Similarly, the relationship between Frank and Roxy is poorly written and inconsistent – this is the one time when it would actually make sense for her character to be a figment of Frank's imagination, but that doesn't turn out to be the case.
On top of that, the climax (which is given away by the trailer) is extremely disappointing and you can't help feeling that there were other, darker versions of the script that were abandoned. At any rate, the film refuses to actually engage with its subject beyond the basic set-up, which is eventually frustrating.
The strong performances and caustic dialogue ensure that God Bless America remains worth seeing, but it's something of a disappointment compared to Goldthwait's wonderful two previous films.