(The 2019 SXSW Film Festival ran March 8-17 in the fantastic city of Austin, TX. Lead critic Chris Reed was on the ground in Austin and has his usual massive slate of reviews and interviews. Stay tuned! Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not pay just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)
A riotous ride through chilling serial-killer territory that turns fear into farce, Villains offers cinematic charm aplenty until its vaguely disappointing climax, though what comes before is charming enough to beg forgiveness for the finale. With winning, demented performances all around, especially from lead baddies Jeffrey Donovan (Dodd Gerhardt on Season 2 of Fargo) and Kyra Sedgwick (The Edge of Seventeen), as husband-and-wife duo George and Gloria, owners of a house into which petty criminals Jules (Maika Monroe, Tau) and Mickey (Bill Skarsgård, It) break in, the movie takes its simple premise and runs full bore with it, bad taste never getting in its way. If you enjoy a good twisted comedy, Villains may just deliver some solid goods.
Writer-directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen (Body) start us off with a gas-station heist pulled by Jules and Mickey, which goes less than perfectly, though they make off with something in the way of loot. Unfortunately, they forget to fill up with gas, and so find themselves stranded on a lonely country road, off of which stands an isolated house. When they see a car in the garage, they hatch a plan to jimmy the front door, find the keys, and be on their merry way. One thing they don’t count on is what they discover in the basement, and soon these minor-league lawbreakers find themselves up against the real deal.
Donovan and Sedgwick are perfect in their roles, dressed as a 1950s couple, all smiles and politesse, masking deep psychotic tendencies within. With a wink and a quip, they turn the tables on the young yokels, ensnaring them in what promises to be something gruesome. Though extremely funny, George and Gloria are also clearly quite dangerous, our initial distaste for Jules and Mickey morphing into sympathy as they suffer and squirm. It’s all played for depraved entertainment value, which the film pulls off until a concluding tonal shift that doesn’t quite work. Until then, we have fun never being quite sure for whom to root. As the title implies, there are no good guys, only victims and victimizers. May the best villain win.
– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)
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