God Bless America - DVD and Blu-ray (2011) - Grade B+
Frank (Joel Murray) is a white collar, tax-paying, average American who is disappointed by the way in which the world currently operates. At work, he vents his frustrations on the media and hates what it’s become. His monologue is several minutes long and is delivered with a coherent, powerful, and intelligent demeanor. Frank may be the average American but he’s instantly likeable and relatable.
Sometimes, Frank fantasizes about entering his next-door neighbor’s house with a shotgun and unloading its contents into the annoying husband, the indifferent wife, and their newborn baby; and as a fantasy it’s entirely acceptable. But we soon-after get to know the neighbors, even for a mere few minutes, and when we do, we kind of feel happy about their imagined murder. That’s the power behind the screenplay, Murray’s performance, and the visuals.
It’s only after Frank’s doctor informs him that he’s dying of cancer that the film kicks everything up to 11. Frank, already feeling homicidal decides to unleash his fury upon real people and begins his righteous crusade by murdering a teenager girl, one that he’d seen on TV yell at her parents because they bought her an environmentally friendly car rather than a huge, gas guzzling SUV. But his killing is witnessed by another teenage girl named Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) and she decides to tag along with him as his partner in crime.
They share with each other their hatred of others; how they hate those that constantly text and do so while driving, and also those that high-five one another. The list goes on. But the second and third acts of the film are entirely dedicated to following Frank and Roxy and watching them murder “innocent” civilians.
One major message that the film puts out is that even though we may take pleasure in wanting to kill those that anger us due to their remarkable insensitivity towards others or because they’re just pain horrible or annoying people, the act of committing murder is still illegal. Frank has nothing to lose and as a fictitious character we go with him along for the ride. But the film showcases its horrific subject matter as a black comedy and while it works terrifically, many viewers will be put off by this film, its subject, and its delivery.
Writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait goes for the jugular, like he has with World’s Greatest Dad (2009) and with Shakes the Clown (1991), and in God Bless America he paints a recognizable and accurate portrait of several terrible aspects that are morally wrong and indecent in our current, contemporary society. He uses a dying man as his white knight and while watching this film, honestly I’d do the same thing that Frank does if I was in that position.
When one is dying and has nothing to lose, why not clean up the streets responsibly and intelligently? Why target drug addicts and kleptomaniacs for murder when preppy, moronic, and stuck up rich folk that haven’t earned a dime in their life are roaming around and are free to criticize anyone that, somehow makes them sick? That’s the overall message of the film and I do not support it as a real human being. In real life, my superpower is choosing to not watch television and to ignore those that I’d mentioned above. And as a fantasy film, God Bless America is, surprisingly terrifically great escapism that’s terrifically acted and that pulls no punches. It’s bloody, it’s filled with coarse language, and it’s, ironically a product of our contemporary society. But it’s one of the better products that’s come out recently and it put a smile on my face. And not in a “I’m going to climb a tower with a rifle and shoot people” way but rather in a “this is terrific escapist entertainment and I’m glad to have watched it” kind of way.
Take it with a grain of salt, because if you don’t it won’t seem to work at all and Bobcat Goldthwait’s work would be for nought.