“THE DEATH OF DICK LONG”: Stupid is as stupid does

Daniel Scheitert, Andre Hyland, Michael Abbott Jr.

My rating: B- (Opens Sept. 27 at the Alamo Draft House) 100 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Published September 26, 2019 by Robert W. Butler at Butler’s Cinema Scene

Given that the combined IQs of the characters in “The Death of Dick Long” is about 45, it’s remarkable that Daniel Scheinert’s dark comedy resists the temptation to sneer and instead goes mining for empathy.

Under the opening credits we see three good ol’ Alabama boys — Zeke (Michael Abbott Jr.), Earl (Andre Hyland) and Dick (director Scheinert) — rehearsing their garage band. Then Dick proposes “Wanna get weird?” and we’re treated to a montage of heavy drinking, bong sucking, fireworks and midnight target practice.

Suddenly we’re in the backseat of Zeke’s car, where Dick is bleeding all over the upholstery.  Zee and Earl are trying to get their buddy to a hospital, but they don’t want to be caught on camera; panicked, they park a block away, carrying their companion through some woods (dropping him on his noggin in the process), and dump him on the pavement outside the E.R. — but not before taking his wallet so that he cannot be identified.

The attending physician is appalled and puzzled.  The patient, who promptly dies, has suffered a severely torn rectum and head trauma.  Looks like a very weird case of rape/murder.

“We’ve got some real perverts on the loose,” observes the officer called to investigate.

Just how weird won’t be revealed until later in the proceedings;  more than a few viewers  will have to pick their jaws out of their laps.

The screenplay by Billy Chew follows two paths.  One centers on Zeke, who unlike his two drinking buddies has a more or less normal life.  There’s his adoring wife Lydia (Virginia Newcomb) and their cute-to-die-for little girl, Poppy (Cynthia Olsen).

But in an effort to extract himself from this desperate situation Zeke does everything wrong. He tries to sink his bloody car in a pond, but  half of it is left sticking out above the water line. He hangs on to Dick’s wallet and I.D. way too long.

And he keeps coming up with ever more impossible excuses. After a while Lydia starts to get suspicious.

The second narrative centers on two female cops (Sarah Baker, Janelle Cochrane) who are at least as dense as the morons they’re trying to track down. They’ll crack the case, but almost by accident.

What we’ve got here is a Southern-fried riff on “Fargo” that forces us to identify with the desperate Zeke as the walls start closing in.

And this is both “Dick Long’s” strength and weakness.   The delicate balancing act between savagely dark comedy and our emotional identification with Zeke creates a tension that some will find frustrating.

We want to laugh at these idiots, but the film won’t give us permission.

| Robert W. Butler

Read the original review and more reviews at Butler’s Cinema Scene

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Robert W. Butler for 41 years reviewed films for the Kansas City Star. In May 2011 he was downsized.

He couldn’t take the hint.

OKAY, so here’s the deal. I write mostly about movies. One good thing about no longer writing for the paper is that I’m free to ignore the big dumb Hollywood turkeys that don’t interest me. So don’t expect every blessed release to be written about here. Many films aren’t worth the effort. Besides, at my age it’s not the $8. It’s the two hours.

UPDATE: OCTOBER, 2014: Well, here’s an interesting twist. The Star wants me back as a freelance film reviewer!!! Apparently enough time has passed that they cannot be accused of firing me so that they can rehire me at a fraction of my original pay (I gather the federal government frowns upon that practice.) So from now on I will probably be reviewing a movie a week for the newspaper.