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If you're expecting a pleasant Howard Hawks-ian comedy, you rented the wrong damn movie! So don't say I didn't warn you. Besides, the video/DVD cover shows Christian Slater holding a chainsaw. How much warning do you need? First of all, "Very Bad Things" works out better if you don't treat it as a straightforward comedy. It's basically a mix of suspense and comedy. Almost like "Fargo." Now before you jump on me, "VBT" is nowhere near as great as "Fargo," but the two films are practically equal in tone.
At least the film contains one element that some comedies lack: the characters AREN'T acting as if they're in a comedy! When the characters panic and do foolish things, they're not contrived comic moments. People do the most absurd things when they panic.
It's hard to explain what exactly it is that makes the film funny. You just have to watch the film. But people really, really mean it when they label this as a dark comedy. Writer/director Peter Berg tries to keep a somewhat quirky tone, though. There are some slanty camera angles and the soundtrack conflicts with the tone of each scene. Don't worry, it's done intentionally. Berg, who's known mostly as an actor in films like "Cop Land" and "The Great White Hype," makes a fine directorial debut, though there is some improper pacing.
Finally, the actors are what make this film most worth seeing. I've always been a fan of Christian Slater, and believe him to be an underrated talent. He seems passionate about every character he plays, and spouts out every line of dialogue like it's poetry. His character is very interesting, as he seems to keep his cool in every situation, no matter how tragic or violent. Daniel Stern's another underrated talent, since he mostly does lightweight family comedies like the "Home Alone" flicks, and does a great job at playing his constantly paranoid character, who's the complete opposite of Slater's. Cameron Diaz gives a fine comic performance as the tightly-wound, hot-tempered wife of Jon Favreau. I think this is one of her most unique performances up-to-date. I think this was before she became such a sex symbol. Now fame has gone a little bit more to her head, starring in such throwaway flicks as the "Charlie's Angels" films and "The Sweetest Thing." She is in fact a very talented actress, but this movie most proves that she's more than just a pretty face. Speaking of pretty faces, Jeanne Tripplehorn also gives a fine comic performance as Stern's tightly-wound wife.
I consider myself an admirer of dark comedies, but any type of film can fail. This one doesn't. It made me laugh and kept me in suspense. And it has a great share of profanity, violence and nudity (that Asian stripper was deliciously hot!!!). "Very Bad Things" is not for the straitlaced, or faint of heart, but for the rest of us--have fun!!!
My score: 7 (out of 10)
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