Review: God Bless America

Other | Friday 6th July 2012 | Osh


Oh say, can you see...

You know the kind of person. They wear crocs for fashion. Use the term 'reem' unironically. Watch X-Factor believing it's unscripted. They pillage, rape and burn the intellectual and emotional quotas of the entire nation. Is there an official word for these upenders of all that is ethical and rational? Yes, and that word is 'society'.

But not to worry. Bobcat Goldthwait, known for his previous acting work in Police Academy and directorial outings such as World's Greatest Dad, has created a valiant and audacious attempt to achieve salvation for us. Unfortunately, it's a cinematic uprising exclusive to the other side of the pond - but we know that God Bless America echoes the exact kind of mass ignorance and apathy that runs deep here. The nationalist, god-fearing and small-minded populace exists everywhere, and Bobcat is on a mission to cleanse what has become of his once great America. So please, welcome to the floor Frank (Joel Murray) - our titular saviour.

Frank is a quiet man. He likes it when his neighbours don't block his car in with their souped-up monstrosity. He appreciates it when people shut the hell up talking about last night's American Superstarz. One night, upon simultaneously being fired and learning of a huge tumour in his brain, he decides to do something about it all; in an inspired and deeply satisfying scene, he violently murders the star of a Sweet 16 show after he witnesses her complaining on TV about her birthday present - her parents got her the wrong car, apparently. From there on in, he reluctantly accepts the company of young upstart Roxy, played deliciously by (Tara Lynne Barr), and America's finger-pointing TV politicians, funeral picketers and noisy cinema-goers simply don't know what's coming.

The subject matter of God Bless America is something that affects us all, and the movie deals with it mostly through lengthy dialogue - which, while electrifying at points, does start to preach to the choir toward the end. In fact, when the action does come, it comes too late; it takes Roxy and Frank far too long to get into the real drive of the picture, and it suffers rather badly for it. But it's mainly overshadowed by their eventual Bonnie and Clyde killing spree, and their relationship is constantly endearing - the core relationship works, and therefore the movie works. And luckily, there are none of the usual trappings a road movie succumbs to, but one of the tropes it could have employed would have to been a tad more episodic - in this case, it would've worked to its pulp stylings.

At one point, Frank asks his victim, 'Why have you got to be so mean?'
And that's the centre of the problem. God Bless America is a riot of politics, ultra-violence, and a mostly stunning indictment on a world gone wrong. Bobcat wants to change that, and on the screen, he manages so.

- Gary Green (@FilmOnTrial)