LOADING ...

There’s no shortage of shocks in Swiss Army Man follow-up The Death Of Dick Long

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky Sep 25, 2019. 7 comments

Dick Long is dead, and his friends Zeke (Michael Abbott Jr.) and Earl (Andre Hyland) are at their wit’s end. They’re desperately trying to cover up whatever role it was they played in their buddy’s untimely death. Not that these two small-town Alabama yokels can keep a story straight, or know a thing about disposing of incriminating evidence apart from what they sorta-kinda remember from movies and TV. But at least they have a few hours’ head start, because no one—not even Dick’s wife, Jane (Jess Weixler)—has figured out yet that their friend is missing, let alone connected him with the unidentified body at the local hospital.

It isn’t until almost an hour into Daniel Scheinert’s The Death Of Dick Long that we learn the grotesque circumstances of Dick’s demise, and the reason why Earl and Zeke would go to crazy lengths to hide their involvement. But if so much of the film feels like an elaborate set-up for a joke, the real kicker is Scheinert’s decision to play the punchline absolutely straight—though even then, one can’t shake the suspicion that this is also a put-on. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that The Death Of Dick Long has played well at film festivals; it is probably best seen with zero foreknowledge.

This left turn into indie drama by way of a gross-out premise has obvious echoes of Swiss Army Man , the surreal buddy comedy that Scheinert co-directed and co-wrote with his longtime creative partner, Daniel Kwan. (The duo, usually credited as “Daniels,” are veterans of music videos and commercials, best known for DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What.”) While The Death Of Dick Long may lack that film’s gonzo attitude and its basement-rec-room flavor of boner joker and slapstick handmade effects, it deals in many of the same subjects, not the least of which are the warped fantasies and bonds of male friendship. If Zeke and Earl’s terrible secret is a lot less bizarre than the sight of a man riding a gas-bloated corpse across the waves like a fart-powered Jet Ski (one of Swiss Army Man’s more indelible images), it is in many respects more off-putting.

Yet Scheinert (who also plays the part of the deceased) never lets his solo outing devolve into a hick freak show, even as it indulges in broad caricatures of porch-flag, lottery-ticket America, from the obnoxiously vaping Earl, who has the “Ooh-wah-ah-ah-ah” from Disturbed’s “Down With The Sickness” as his ringtone, to the local law, represented by a sheriff (Janelle Cochrane) who walks with a cane and an ineffectual deputy (Sarah Baker). Even the soundtrack—which includes Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me,” Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open,” and a shambolic cover of Staind’s “It’s Been A While”—falls somewhere between irony and sincere fondness.

One can think of recent indies that have done a better job of exploring similarly dark, trashy recesses of protracted adolescence—the films of Joel Potrykus, for example. (This year’s Relaxer even featured Hyland in a memorable role as a juggalo.) But even as the antics get more and more boneheaded—whether it’s Earl’s harebrained plan to skip town or Zeke’s attempt to dispose of a car in a shallow pond—one never doubts the affection that The Death Of Dick Long has for these numbskulls. Billy Chew’s screenplay takes at least one important lesson from the best of both crime movies and small-town portraits: The characters, however minor or ridiculous, seem to lead lives that started well before the movie and will continue long after. Well, except for Dick himself. He’s gone.

7 Comments

Other Ignatiy Vishnevetsky's posts

Will Smith fights himself in Ang Lee’s dopey but thrilling Gemini Man Will Smith fights himself in Ang Lee’s dopey but thrilling Gemini Man

Ang Lee’s sci-fi action movie Gemini Man, which stars Will Smith as a government assassin who discovers that he was cloned by his former superiors, brims with the kind of possibilities of which transcendent pulp stories are made: an exclusive world of cold-blooded pros; a cavalier attitude toward both science and bodily harm; an air of weariness and regret; a...

Memory is a superficial look at the origins of Alien Memory is a superficial look at the origins of Alien

Movie ReviewMovie ReviewMemory: The Origins Of AlienC+Movie ReviewMemory: The Origins Of AlienC+C+Memory: The Origins Of AlienDirectorAlexandre O. PhilippeRuntime95 minutesRatingNot RatedLanguageEnglishCastDocumentaryAvailabilitySelect theaters and VOD October 4In the 40 years since the crew of the Nostromo first awakened from hypersleep to investigate that fateful transmission on LV-426, Ridley Scott’s Alien has come to be regarded as such a classic that addressing...

Let’s hope Last Blood is the last we see of John Rambo Let’s hope Last Blood is the last we see of John Rambo

Movie ReviewMovie ReviewRambo: Last BloodC-Movie ReviewRambo: Last BloodC-C-Rambo: Last BloodDirectorAdrian GrunbergRuntime89 minutesRatingRLanguageEnglish, SpanishCastSylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal, Adriana Barraza, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Óscar JaenadaAvailabilityTheaters everywhere September 20Sylvester Stallone’s restless all-American killing machine John J. Rambo is back, though one would be forgiven for not recognizing him. It has, after all, been 11 years since Rambo gave this Reagan-era reactionary...

Brad Pitt journeys into inner and outer space in James Gray’s sci-fi stunner Ad Astra Brad Pitt journeys into inner and outer space in James Gray’s sci-fi stunner Ad Astra

When we go to space, how much of our baggage will we bring with us? The question hangs over James Gray’s Ad Astra, a mesmerizing sci-fi drama that takes us to a future where humanity has started to colonize the solar system and the stars have begun to lose some of their luster. There are Applebee’s and souvenir stands on...

Suggested posts

Cannes winner Atlantics tells a richly imagined ghost story Cannes winner Atlantics tells a richly imagined ghost story

In Mati Diop’s Atlantics, discontent reigns over the port city of Dakar, where a futuristic high-rise towers like some cruelly conceived lighthouse. When first introduced, Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré), one of the construction workers of this building project, is agitating for three months of backpay; when he and his compatriots are rebuffed, he turns to his lover, Ada (Mama Sané),...

Adam Driver makes congressional oversight exciting in the political drama The Report Adam Driver makes congressional oversight exciting in the political drama The Report

It’s become a cliché to say that some actors are so good that they can hold an audience’s attention just by reading the phone book in an empty room. But that’s more or less what Adam Driver does in the political drama The Report, and danged if he isn’t riveting. Playing the dogged Senate investigator Daniel Jones, Driver spends...

The John Cena comedy Playing With Fire knows as little about kids as its fireman heroes The John Cena comedy Playing With Fire knows as little about kids as its fireman heroes

In the new comedy Playing With Fire, a youngster challenges the authority of Jake Carson (John Cena), a disciplined and severe firefighter, by correcting Carson’s wildly off-base guess about the kid’s age. Carson’s right-hand man Mark (Keegan-Michael Key) steps in to assert that this insubordination will not stand: “If he says you’re 8, you’re 8.” It’s a funny line,...

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson face the end of their Marriage Story in a brilliant tragicomedy Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson face the end of their Marriage Story in a brilliant tragicomedy

Promptly fulfilling the promise of its title, Noah Baumbach’s profound and perspicacious Marriage Story begins with the story of a marriage. We meet Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), artists raising a son in New York, over the course of two consecutive montages. As we’re treated to fleeting images of a shared life—board games, dinners, haircuts, arguments—the couple lays out...

Midway is a middling war movie from the director of Independence Day Midway is a middling war movie from the director of Independence Day

Not unlike the phenomenon of war itself, Roland Emmerich’s Midway is overlong, repetitive, and filled with people meeting their maker in horrific and pointless circumstances. But the latest attempt at strained seriousness from the director of such conspiracy-theory-inspired popcorn entertainments as Independence Day and 2012 has at least one advantage over the real thing: All the important people in...

A coal-lump twist can't dampen the fleabaggy charms of Last Christmas A coal-lump twist can't dampen the fleabaggy charms of Last Christmas

There’s no spoiling the new Yuletide-themed rom-com Last Christmas; its script and advertising, plus the broad contours of its premise, all beat the press to that particular punch. Imagine, if you will, a film taking its title from erstwhile Wham! frontman George Michael’s signature holiday standard, a song that even the barely pop-culture-literate can remember starts with a sweetly...

Nic Cage doesn’t even try to upstage his animal costars in the lousy zoological action thriller Primal Nic Cage doesn’t even try to upstage his animal costars in the lousy zoological action thriller Primal

Set almost entirely on a cargo ship, Primal is yet another recent low-budget Nic Cage action vehicle in which you can practically see him working out which financial obligations his paycheck will partially cover. As written—by one Richard Leder, who’s spent the past two decades almost exclusively penning TV-movies with titles like Christmas On Chestnut Street and Our Son,...

The Kingmaker gawks at obscene wealth, but finds a much more disturbing legacy behind it The Kingmaker gawks at obscene wealth, but finds a much more disturbing legacy behind it

“I miss the clout of being First Lady,” admits Imelda Marcos, the widow of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, near the beginning of photographer-filmmaker Lauren Greenfield’s new documentary, The Kingmaker. When first introduced, Marcos is being driven through the streets of Manila in 2014—decades after the period of martial law her husband instituted in 1972 and his death in...

The new Lady And The Tramp feels like a ’90s update of a ’50s classic The new Lady And The Tramp feels like a ’90s update of a ’50s classic

With remakes of The Lion King , Beauty And The Beast , and Aladdin topping the box office despite their rather dubious artistic qualities, the ’90s have proven to be a particularly fruitful era for Disney. The Mouse House’s latest live-action do-over capitalizes on nostalgia for that decade in a different way. Though the new Lady And The Tramp...

Like poor Danny Torrance, Doctor Sleep can’t escape the long shadow of The Shining Like poor Danny Torrance, Doctor Sleep can’t escape the long shadow of The Shining

The Overlook plays what you might call a supporting role in Doctor Sleep. Aside from some fleeting flashbacks to a little boy biking down hallways, it’s a good two hours before the haunted hotel of The Shining first appears in this belated sequel, which otherwise seems to take place everywhere but the iconic Colorado locale of Stephen King’s terrifying 1977...

Language