Dir. Bobcat Goldthwait. U.S. 2011.

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Bobcat Goldthwait, returns with the third film in his darker side of America trilogy after Sleeping Dogs (2006) and The World's Greatest Dad (2009).

The first film dealt with the subject of bestiality (a typical taboo subject), the latter film starring Robin Williams had him as a would be author who is having to suffer a job in a high school.  After his son's death, he writes his son's suicide note and the beauty of the words allows him to be the celebrated writer he always wanted to be.  At the conclusion, the writer gets a change of heart and comes clean.  Goldthwait may write dark but at least he has the conscience.

In his new film, he explores the polluting influence of television and celebrity, and how it is destabilising American society.  Goldthwait uses a surrogate in the form of Frank (Joel Murray), a man who has a humdrum office job and spends his evenings watching awful television whilst his child lives with his ex-wife and new husband.  Frank believes in honesty, integrity and good manners in life will get you rewards, in contrast to the mean-spirited individuals who are celebrated for being nothing more than being good to look at - 'Its a type of freak show that appears when a civilisation is collapsing'.

Frank would wish he had the cajones to do something about society and change it for the better, and his initial dream sequences of shooting people he hates in his office are quite entertaining - then he is hit by the news that he has an inoperable brain tumour he decides to go out on a vigilante rampage of revenge against all the social cyphers he despises.

Frank comes into contact with 16 year old Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) and together they embark on this road trip culminating in the shootout on American Superstars; a Pop Idol/X-Factor show that is the main target.

Part of the problem with the film is the mixture of tone; whilst the start has Frank giving off monologues and dialogue that is quite explicit in his beliefs  - 'I live next door to a couple of neanderthals, who instead of giving birth to a baby gave birth to a nocturnal civil defense air raid siren'.  However, once the violent streak begins with Roxy in tow, the targets become all too easy - Twitter, gossiping, lack of original thoughts - and whilst the targets are mentioned by real name to give a sense of reality, the non-stop violence and obvious buckets of blood are quite unnecessary.

It is quite hypocritical to suggest that Frank hates all the television shows, when he is watching them in the first place, although maybe this is Goldthwait's point; there is nothing but constant crap on television.  This is a shame as at times Murray, clearly a surrogate for Goldthwait in the lead role, is quite believable as the hound dog Frank. 

Murray has been appearing on American TV for years most notably Dharma and Greg and Mad Men; yet it is the role of Roxy that is quite disconcerting - a role that is unfortunately too zany for the film and too off the rails in comparison to Frank.  Frank is beyond medical help, Roxy is beyond any perhaps.

The film might have worked better if Frank was a lone crusader, a distant cousin of Michael Douglas' D-Fens in Falling Down (1993), one man who is just simply having a bad time of things and wants to make the world a little bit more polite and gracious.

The problem with tone is a common problem with Goldthwait who never goes all the way with his satire, and has to come round to normality; a shame as some of the ideas he has Frank speak for him in the first 20 minutes had laid the foundation for something more memorable.

God Bless America is out from StudioCanal on Wednesday 4th July (Independence Day) and is available on DVD on Monday 9th July 2012.

Jamie Garwood

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