If somebody were to ask you to look into a mirror, you’re not always guaranteed to like what you see reflected. US director Bobcat Goldthwait’s savage social commentary God Bless America (2011) not only attacks the cultureless void of modern society, but waves a gun barrel in the face of hot-dog-munching audiences who have parted with their hard-earned cash for a couple of hours of what they assumed would be mere ‘entertainment’.
It’s a dangerous game to play, and Goldthwait will probably lose more fans than he gains. You may find yourself chuckling with glee as the terminally-ill Frank (Joel Murray) and his unhinged teenage sidekick Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) pop a cap in the ass of a spoilt reality TV star, or administer some rough justice on some impolite cinemagoers, yet a moment later sigh as the dynamic duo riff about murdering people who ‘high five’.
God Bless America’s ferocious nature could likely lead to some losing faith in the film’s overall narrative. At points, Goldthwait overreaches himself; his bile-soaked bullets riddled over far too many targets to keep track of successfully. In addition, Barr’s occasional clumsy dialogue delivery shows her lack of pedigree, the editing is erratic at times and although it borrows heavily from the likes of Super (2010) and Natural Born Killers (1994), Frank and Roxy are far more hyperreal than Mickey and Mallory.
Yet Goldthwait isn’t seeking realism or even originality – he’s simply using the bones of a familiar old story as a vessel for his vitriol. The violence on display is graphic and sporadic, but either by chance or design the opening scene is so genuinely shocking that you’re almost desensitised to the carnage that comes after. It’s this ambiguity of intention that perhaps only a word with the director himself will ever resolve.
Is God Bless America simply a mouthpiece for Goldthwait to vent his own spleen, or did he intend to create the snake that eats its own tail? If you’re one of those few people who leave the cinema smiling after enjoying every last minute of mundane murder, what kind of monster does that make you? For even hinting at such philosophical conundrums – and much like Michael Haneke’s original Funny Games (1997) – God Bless America is essential viewing.
For an alternative review of Bobcat Goldthwait’s God Bless America, follow this link.