There aren’t a lot of movies being released right now. There’s a good reason for that, but it still kind of sucks. Luckily, as a lifelong fan of DTV, VOD, and streaming exclusives, I’m able to get that sweet, sweet content I crave.
Two straight-to-streaming titles recently premiered, and I thought I’d review them. One of them is a sequel to one of my favorite films from the last couple of years, and the other is an intriguing thriller with some solid gimmicky casting.
DEBT COLLECTORS (2020)
Starring: Scott Adkins, Louis Mandylor, Marina Sirtis, Vladimir Kulich, Vernon Wells
Directed By: Jesse V. Johnson
Written By: Jesse V. Johnson and Stu Small
2018’s The Debt Collector ended with one of the lead characters dead and the other one on his way there, which doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for a sequel. Luckily, those leads are so damn good together that I don’t actually care, I’m just glad to have them back.
French (Scott Adkins) is bouncing at a bar when his one-time debt collecting partner Sue (Louis Mandylor) shows up with an offer: three collections in two days that will give French enough money to jump-start his life again. Obviously, French is reluctant, what with their last job almost killing him and literally killing Sue, but he accepts. Probably because he knows the title of the film is Debt Collectors, so we have to see some actual debt collection.
Director Jesse V. Johnson has worked with Adkins seven times now, and their collaborations are easily some of the best DTV action you can find. The Debt Collector was one of my favorite films of 2018, and last year’s Avengement may have been their best movie yet. But the secret ingredient in this unlikely series is Louis Mandylor. He brings playfulness and soulfulness to his role that allows him to steal every scene he’s in. The smartest thing that the movie does is center the emotional climax on Sue.
Where Debt Collectors falls short, especially compared to the first one, is the action. The fight scenes are all solid, but only a couple actually stand out. The boxing match—because of course, one of the collections they have to make is from a guy who owns a boxing gym—is fun and dynamic, but the standout fight is a They Live homage. That alleyway brawl perfectly blends the two selling points of the film: the chemistry between French and Sue and Adkins’ dynamic way of kicking the shit out of somebody.
The rest of the fights are fairly run-of-the-mill, and the action in the actual climax is disappointing. What makes up for that are the scenes of French and Sue chatting, giving each other shit, or opening up emotionally. They make a point of mentioning the fact that these two men only spent three days together a year or two ago, but what they went through in that time cemented a very real connection between them. The easy chemistry between Adkins and Mandylor totally sells that concept.
The first film is a chatty, Pulp Fiction-tinged actioner that I never expected to enjoy as much as I did. The idea of a sequel seemed ill-advised at best, and yet it can stand proudly alongside the original. If they decide to turn the series into a trilogy, I’ll be waiting to stream it the first day it comes out.
Starring: Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Joel McHale, Robert Maillet, Amanda Brugel, Ryan McDonald
Directed By: Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion
Written By: Nick Morris, Lane Skye, and Ruckus Skye
It feels like Becky is attempting to accomplish three things, with varying success. The first is to be a star vehicle for the young actress Lulu Wilson, the second is to cast Kevin James against type, and the third is to give the audience an R-rated Home Alone. The premise is solid if those are your goals.
A father (Joel McHale) decides to take Becky, his troubled daughter (Lulu Wilson), to their family cabin. Her mother died recently, and she’s clearly still processing it. Her dad exacerbates the situation by inviting his new girlfriend (Amanda Brugel) and her son while also letting Becky know that they’re getting engaged. So it’s kind of a shitshow for Becky. That all happens before a group of neo-Nazis who broke out of prison led by Kevin James are after a key, which is just one big MacGuffin.
When it comes to the movie’s mission statement, I’ll start from the bottom, which is the aspect that they whiff the most. As far as adult versions of Home Alone are concerned, you’d be better off going with You’re Next or Better Watch Out. There just isn’t enough gimmicky kid-versus-invader trap-setting for it to be that entertaining.
As a vehicle for Kevin James—notoriously a girthy, physical comedian; Adam Sandler’s in-house Jack Black—it’s a mixed bag. Admittedly he’s a striking figure with a bald head, a big beard, and a swastika tattooed on the back of his head. He does a good job with what he’s given, but when you compare him to other turns like Albert Brooks in Drive or Patrick Stewart in Green Room, it just doesn’t hold up. Most of that is the script’s fault. When his scenes actually pop—which are usually the scenes with the conflicted gang member Apex (Robert Maillet) or over a walkie-talkie with Becky—he does a great job, but it’s an unfortunately underwritten role.
Where Becky fully-succeeds is as a vehicle for Lulu Wilson. Becky is a complicated character who is dealing with a lot of drastic changes in her life, and she’s borderline frustrating for the first part of the movie. Luckily, Wilson does a good enough job of making her sympathetic instead of the standard annoying child you’d expect from a movie like this, which is good since she’s the titular Becky.
There were portions of Becky that I enjoyed. It laid out the stakes clearly, showing us that children and animals weren’t off the table. It had solid little character arcs for Becky and for Apex. I think its biggest fault may have been leaning into the MacGuffin way too much. They almost seem to imply … that it’s supernatural at the end? If they had explained it at all or spent a little less time on it, then it wouldn’t be weird, but it definitely left things a little muddled.
Overall, Becky is worth watching if you want to see a Lulu Wilson vehicle or Kevin James playing against type, but most people could think of better versions of this movie. Ultimately, I hope that Wilson gets a lot more leading roles and James can actually lock down a villainous role worthy of him.