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Girl (2020) Bella Thorne, Mickey Rourke - (Horror Movie Review)

Girl (2020) Bella Thorne, Mickey Rourke - (Horror Movie Review)
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PLOT: A young girl heads back to her childhood town intending to kill her deadbeat father, only to find out someone beat her to it. One to look a gift horse in the mouth, she decides to dig a bit deeper and uncover her seedy family history in this corrupt small town.

LOWDOWN: Set in the rural midwest, in a town that could be a stand-in for any economically ravaged blue-collar industry that left and never came back. GIRL (WATCH IT HERE) tells the story of Girl (Bella Thorne) who, after her Mama (yea, no one is actually named in this) tells her of a threatening letter sent by her deadbeat father, sets off with the intention of murder before getting caught in the middle of something far more sinister. With the local nutcase Sheriff (Mickey Rourke) having a dictator-like effect over the town, this becomes a cat-and-mouse game as Thorne's character may have the information he needs. At its core, GIRL is more about abuse, and poverty over action and revenge, as the trailer would have you believe.

With this being a more contemplative tale than I expected, all credit must be given to Bella Thorne. GIRL doesn't do anything different with the troubled girl trope; still, Thorne's performance is so damn compelling and emotional with a fantastic and subdued performance that it makes her vengeful side more grounded and relatable. Credit to writer/director/actor Chad Faust for having the foresight to keep Thorne's character simple and amateur. She's not fluent in fighting or Macgyver-esq in survival, but a white trash kid who had to grow up a helluv faster than she should have. Something as small as having her constantly getting overpowered was refreshingly practical. In your average revenge flick, the heroine would, at one hundred pounds, easily take over a guy three times her size, but I love that "the girl" isn't special and is acting on emotion alone, which puts her way over her head and she gets the sh*t kicked out of her repeatedly.

The setting was also a welcomed addition as this is a sad wasteland leftover by the globalization and automation of most manufacturing. A true snapshot of the midwest in a f*cking nutshell and not far off from the south's scary hick towns, only more tragic. First time director Chad Faust has a good eye for this, and the setting plays as a character itself. A place that is oozing with corruption; we never get anything more than that time has moved on. This is a place of sadness, and that our protagonist's father died lonely drunk nails it home. The tone is a cold smack in the face, which elevates even the most clunky of dialogue. GIRL isn't a chatty movie, but it is smart to give us a break between exposition to let us soak up the seediness of small-town America.

Mickey Rourke's Sheriff and Chad Faust's "Charmer" do well as the evil duo, with Rourke playing the Sherrif with a sense of calm and control like a high-level mobster. Faust gets to go full camp as the Stu character from SCREAM. With a monologue type of dialogue and an off-the-rocker approach, I dug his batsh*t crazy take. Like a shot of whiskey and a quick line in the bathroom, Faust goes to eleven and steals the show here. With the lack of accountability in such a small town, you feel like these two could run it with an iron fist without much pushback. This is something I wish was more present story-wise. It's background noise, and though it serves a purpose, I found myself wishing the story was more of a three-way. Rourke and Faust's control of a dying town and Thorne trying to figure it out. GIRL takes that approach on face level but doesn't dig nearly deep enough.

On the flip side, there are a few things that stung like cheap gin on a weekday night. GIRL felt like it was a two-hour-plus film that got chopped down to under the ninety-minutes. Performance-wise, f*ck ya, I was engaged and involved with the characters, but we didn't get to dig into anything worthwhile besides establishing the town. There are a handful of side characters that I wish could have been explored more or have had more of a deeper connection to the story but ended up just... there. Some of the dialogue was exposition-heavy, and since the subject matter was rural in nature, It had the unfortunate consequence of coming off a bit laughable at times. There's a side character who wants to get his kid out of the inevitability of small-town poverty and despair but comes off so heavy-handed that I swear his lines are from motivational Facebook quotes. The idea is noble, but it just comes off pretentious and rushed with such a limited run time.

GORE: Nope. We get a decent hatchet stab and a gunshot wound, but GIRL isn't one to focus on the blood and gore.

BOTTOM LINE: A lot worked for me here. As a midwesterner myself, I always think about how different my life would be if I grew up just one hour south, where places look like these. The decay of small-town America is brutal and an excellent landscape for storytelling. GIRL does a great job of embracing that setting and hires the perfect actors to play around in it, but I feel like this didn't go far enough. The story is lean and straightforward, yet never quite felt whole. It has a lot of great pieces but didn't connect in the way I was hoping. That being said, the good outweighs the bad, and Thorne gives it her all (minus a very flaky southern accent) and holds her own against a heavyweight like Rourke. If you ignore the trailer and view this as more of a cat-and-mouse noir story, you should have a good time.

  GIRL Lands In Select Theaters On November 20, Available on VOD November 24th.

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