“VILLAINS”: There’s bad, and then there’s BAD

Maika Monroe, Bill Skarsgard

My rating: B- (Opens Sept. 11 at the Screenland Armour)  88 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Published October 10, 2019 by Robert W. Butler at Butler’s Cinema Scene

The ironically titled “Villains” makes audiences  root for a pair of truly stupid criminal lovers by providing antagonists who are infinitely worse.

In Dan Berk and Robert Olsen’s black comedy, Mickey (Bill Skarsgard) and Jules (Maika Monroe) are the stars of their own sweetly demented version of “Gun Crazy.”  They are to real criminals what white suburban teens are to genuine gang bangers — they talk tough and are sexually turned on by  criminal behavior, but they’re so thick they don’t think to fill the tank of their getaway vehicle before robbing a convenience store.

Running out of gas just miles from their latest heist, the pair ditch the car and take refuge in blandly posh manse in the woods.  Nobody’s home, so they figure they can hang out there for a while.

That’s until they find a mute 10-year-old girl chained in the basement and are interrupted by the arrival of homeowners George and Gloria (Jeffrey Donovan, Kyra Sedgwick), who are also serial kidnappers/killers.

Gloria is a Southern belle so off the charts that she believes  a porcelain-headed doll is her actual child (she makes Blanche Dubois look like the poster girl for emotional stability).  Hubby George is a golden-voiced charmer, a Dixie gentleman who can explain away even the most hair-raising ugliness with a barrage of reassuring   bromides. (Am I the only one who suspects Donovan is doing a vocal imitation of Kevin Spacey in his “House of Cards” role?)

Kyra Sedgwick, Jeffrey Donovan

Before long Mickey and Jules are chained up with the kid in the cellar; it will take all of their resources (not that they’ve been gifted with many) to outsmart their captors and get the hell out of this singularly creepy Dodge.

Skarsgard, who currently can be seen as the killer clown Pennywise in the new “It” sequel, is particularly good at nailing Mickey’s mental thickness…but he’s enough of a natural predator to realize that the prim Gloria is so desperate for a real baby that she’ll bite at his half-assed sexual overtures.

Monroe, the heroine of the indy chillfest “It Follows,” slyly mines Jules’ comic desperation.

But the runaway stars here are Sedgwick and Donovan, who chew scenery, spit out big pieces, and encourage us to feed them more. Their demented parody of domestic bliss is reason enough to see “Villains.”

| 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.