Joel Murray as Frank Murdoch
Tara Lynne Barr as Roxanne “Roxy” Harmon
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
This is a very confused film . At one level it is a shoot ‘em up murderfest, on another a road movie, on a third a political polemic. There are elements of Michael Douglas in Falling Down, Bonnie and Clyde and a Michael Moore documentary.
There are only two characters of significance: Joel Murray (Bill Murray’s brother) is Frank Murdoch and Tara Lynne Barr is Roxanne “Roxy” Harmon. Murdoch is an insurance salesman in late middle age who is nauseated by modern America. He loathes the vacuity of thought and purpose he sees in those around him, the absence of good manners, the sexualisation of children and the vulgarity and casual cruelty of reality shows ? (His particular TV hatred is a reality show American Superstarz where a hopeless singer named Steven Clark (Aris Alvarado) is made an object of fun by the judges and the audience . Eventually Clark tries but fails to commit suicide). Murdoch summarises his feelings to a work colleague “Why have a civilisation if we are not interested in being civilised any more?”
All of those sentiments could be ascribed to someone of the political right, as could the character’s liking for guns and his readiness and delight in using them. But on top of all this raw and understandable emotion is piled a thick grey curtain of political correctness which oozes over the film as oil floats on water. Apart from liking guns, having no scruples about killing and generally disapproving of modern American life and culture, Murdoch also has a hatred of the politically incorrect who have the temerity to disapprove of homosexuals, mass immigration and abortion and support the neo-cons in their warmongering or the Tea Party in their small state agenda. As he puts it, “I am not afraid of immigrants and people with vaginas”.
Murdoch’s life is messy. He is separated from his wife and daughter and lives in a cheap flat with the next-door-neighbour –from-hell whose particular source of provocation is a baby who never seems to stop crying. Murdoch fantasises about killing the child and the father by spectacularly blowing them away with a heavyweight gun Arnold Schwarzenegger would have been happy to tote in one of his more extreme roles. His ex-wife panders to their daughter who is a shrieking ingrate, much like the first person he kills, Chloe(Maddie Hasson), the daughter of a family taking part in a fly-on-the-wall reality show .
Murdoch loses his job summarily as, ironically, he becomes a victim of the political correctness which he embraces . He has sent flowers to the home of a receptionist who works for the same company and this is treated as sexual harassment. He is also told (wrongly) by his doctor that he is dying of a brain tumour. With these burdens upon him Murdoch decides to commit suicide, but decides to murder Chloe first after watching an episode of her reality show when her behaviour is ungrateful with knobs on, behaviour which in Murdoch’s eyes makes her worthy of death. He first attempts to burn her to death by handcuffing her to the steering wheel of her car and then shoving a burning wick made of paper into the petrol tank – note the very cruel intended death – and when this fails through his laughable incompetence, he shoots the girl.
At this point Roxy Harmon appears. She is a 16-year-old classmate of Chloe . Her character is teen psychopath mixed with winning ingénue. Having seen Murdoch kill the Chloe she squeals with delight and attaches herself to him. After he has threatened suicide she persuades Murdoch not to do it because the media would depict him as a stalker who killed the girl because of a sexual obsession rather than a pain-in-the-neck deserving death . Roxy also suggests that they kill Chloe’s parents because they are also worthless. They do this and Roxy then persuades Murdoch to take her with him on a killing spree by feeding him with false story about coming from a deprived and abusive family comprised of a drug addict mother and rapist step-father. Murdoch agrees to let her come along on the understanding that they only kill people who deserve it, the classic modern liberal’s understanding of justice, that is, punish anyone who disagrees with us.
The pair go on a killing spree the motives for which range from the childlike temper tantrum of killing of a man who double parks, teenagers in a cinema who talk, throw popcorn and use their mobile phones to the adolescent ideologically inspired murder of a right wing broadcaster.
Eventually Murdoch learns that his doctor had made a mistake and that he does not have a brain tumour. Cheered by this news, Murdoch plans to escape to France with Roxy and start a new life. Before this plan can be put into action he is propositioned by a man who thinks he is Roxy’s pimp. Depressed again by this encounter he returns to his motel room and sees Roxy’s parents making a plea for her to come home. Far from being from a dysfunctional family, Roxy comes from a staid middle class family with money. Murdoch is dismayed further at the disjunction between reality and his liberal fantasy about rescuing Roxy from a non-pc home. He relieves his feeling by beating to death the man who thought he was Roxy’s pimp.
Murdoch then decides to make a grand statement by deciding to hijack Superstarz to both say what he thinks of modern America in general and the expose what he perceives to be the mistreatment of Steven Clark in particular. This involves him buying some heavyweight weaponry from a shady gun dealer (Mike Tristano). The scene involves startlingly hard-core political incorrectness with Tristano engaging in some most unusual sales spiel such as “Put this 357 magnum….to the back of some n****r’s head and all you are going to see is some pink mist“; “Walther P38. German. Who knows how to kill people better than German, right? You’re not a Jew are you Frank?; “AK47 . When you absolutely have to positively waste every mother f**ker in the room accept no substitute …. ” It’s a spray and spray weapon and what’s better than that right?”
During this scene Murdoch’s face is deepening ever further into the peculiarly ghastly rictus grimace mixed with sickly grin which modern liberals adopt when having to listen to anything which treads heavily on their pc dreams. (The scene can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN5KRvfo-AA&feature=related). This is interesting because left-liberal directors seem to get a particular thrill out of creating scenes of intense political incorrectness. It is almost as if, not being able to readily find such rich fare in real life, they have to provide an ersatz substitute to persuade themselves that non-pc demons really do exist. Or perhaps they simply enjoy the thrill of the illicit.
The final action is in the American Superstarz studio where Murdoch and Roxy are re-united and blast all and sundry before being riddled in a manner suggestive of both Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Bonnie and Clyde. Before this happens Murdoch suffers the fate of all modern liberals of being mugged by disagreeable reality. Steven Clark tells him that the reason he had attempted suicide was not because of the ridicule but because he feared he was going top be dropped by the show. Murdoch responds by shooting him in the manner of a five-year-old throwing a tantrum.
Murray is extremely good as Murdoch, giving him at first a querulous anger which dissolves into the persona of a confident killer as the film progresses. (He is surprisingly adept at the hit-man element of the film). Tara Lynne Barr is engaging in a Goldie Hawn sort of way as Roxy. I suspect she will make a substantial career in comedy.
This is a watchable film in its own right, but it is also worth viewing because Murdoch encapsulates the modern liberal character: part young child, part adolescent, religiously mouthing politically correct platitudes whilst casually removing those who irritate him Murdoch’s desire to control what people do and say is simply a desire to control. The fact that a large part of his agenda could be espoused by the Right is irrelevant. It is the control which matters.. Like all those who are captured by an ideology, the politically correct really only want to make the world in their own image at best and at worst, like the Party in 1984, the only object of their power is the exercise of power itself.