There's gallows humour and then there's shooting a baby in the face in the first five minutes of your film - that's Bobcat Goldthwait for you, kids. The famously squeaky-voiced comedian has a bone to pick in his latest film, God Bless America; and not just with noisy babies. This is a razor-sharp cuff about the ears for a callous generation but thankfully it's also more than just infanticidal fantasy; it's a super-smart diatribe on the ills of modern America.
Frank (Joel Murray) is losing at life; his wife has left him, his daughter has turned into an entitled brat and now he's lost his job. Oh, and he's dying. He's had enough of the worst people having it the easiest and he sets out for a little violent catharsis, acquiring a precocious Patty Hearst-loving protege on the way. Frank isn't really a bad guy - he's determined only to do in those he deems deserving of death (racists, homophobes, the cruel, the intolerant and the greedy) but Goldthwait's hilarious script still has time to shred the likes of Vladimir Nabokov, Woody Allen, Glee and Diablo Cody.
The opening scenes lay the groundwork for Frank's descent into sociopathy and they're littered with ridiculous parodies of TV talent and reality shows, interspersed with Office Space-style pathos and awkward peeks into his miserable life. The pace picks up considerably when disenfranchised teen, Roxy, appears on the scene. Played by Tara Lynne Barr, she delivers a tirade of intelligent barbs like a hail of bullets and provides most of the film's best laughs, as well as its emotional pivot.
The unashamedly direct script seems to delight in nodding to its various influences. The spirits of Falling Down, Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers are all invoked but this is too much fun to be derivative. While it might provoke knee-jerk horror, this is as patriotic a film as you could hope to find - it's just that it's yearning for an America trapped beneath a crust of cultural crappiness. Goldthwait clearly loves his country and he's put together the best propaganda in favour of equality and common decency recently committed to celluloid. If nothing else, this is probably the most uplifting film about callous acts of violence you're likely to see this year.
In a nutshell: An excellent film that picks up where its predecessors left off, blazing trails for a new era of American satire. What it lacks in delicacy it makes up in energy, drive and hilarity.
By Terry Mulcahy