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Review: Very Bad Things (1998)

Very Bad Things (1998)

Directed by: Peter Berg

Premise: A bachelor party goes terribly wrong when one of the partygoers accidentally kills a stripper. In their attempt to conceal the crime, the men gradually find themselves in deeper and deeper trouble.

What Works: Very Bad Things is to dark comedy what Shoot ‘Em Up is to action films; it triple-dog-dares the audience to believe what they are seeing, intentionally taking things above and beyond the normal. The film starts out like a lot of stag party stories like The Hangover or Bachelor Party but Very Bad Things quickly reveals that it is about something more than just debauchery. It is, at least in the first two acts, about manhood and male relationships and the odd dynamics that occur between groups of male friends. It is also about how people can justify and rationalize doing very horrendous things to each other. Through all of this rather heavy thematic material, Very Bad Things manages a very wicked sense of humor. It is not always laugh out loud funny but it is smart and clever and has a diabolical drive that keeps it moving. Christian Slater plays the mastermind of the group’s activities and he gives what is probably the best performance of his career, channeling the vocabulary of a motivational speaker by way of a used car salesman. It is a tremendous piece of acting and Slater elevates the film in many respects. Also impressive is Cameron Diaz as a demanding bride-to-be. Her character’s manipulation of her fiancé, played by Jon Favreau, is great to watch and her actions unify nicely with Slater’s character.

What Doesn’t: The finale of Very Bad Things goes on a detour and does not end quite right. It is a disappointing conclusion to a film that is, up to that point, spot on in its tone and story construction.

DVD extras: Trailer, cast profiles.

Bottom Line: Despite the weakness of the ending, Very Bad Things is worth a look, especially by those who enjoy dark or complicated pieces like The House of Yes or found the subtle humor in Hostel.

Episode: #243 (June 14, 2009)