Combining outlandish comedy humor and thriller elements can often make for an uneven blend, but “Villains” succeeds thanks to winning performances and inspired direction from Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. It all starts off with a dream of Florida . . .
Florida is the final destination for Mickey (Bill Skarsgård) and Jules (Maika Monroe) foolhardy lovers who have just robbed a gas station and are flush with enough cash for the Sunshine State. Even though they are amoral criminals, their innate likability shines through, and when their vehicle inexplicably runs out of fuel (they forgot to fill up!), danger is just around the corner.
Being stranded on a desolate road with only trees in sight is a horrible turn of events, that is until they see a house just around the way. They break into the home looking for valuables (finding a gas tank or maybe another car is obviously a priority), but the most valuable “item” in the domicile is a child who’s chained up in the basement! (Blake Baumgartner).
Homeowners George (Jeffrey Donovan) and Gloria (Kyra Sedgwick) return, but since Mickey has the gun, the advantage is temporarily in the crooks’ favor. These youths may have entered a life of crime, but that doesn’t mean they lack a sense of humanity. Their ultimate plan is to leave with the girl, steal the couple’s car, and head off into the sunset. When the tables are predictably turned, Mickey and Jules are in a race to not only save the little girl but ensure their own survival.
Director/writers Dan Berk and Robert Olsen keeps the narrative at a brisk pace, keeping the tension at an an all-time high up through the nail-biting climax. A healthy dose of “I can’t believe this is happening” humor is also a big part of the stew, and thanks to engaged and scenery chewing performances (I mean that in a great way) from Sedgwick and Donovan, the comedy is absolutely on point.
“Villains'” main strength lies in the palpable chemistry between Monroe and Skarsgård, as their love and care for one another brings a surprising level of resonance to this stylized and eccentric comedy/thriller. It’s great seeing Kyra Sedgwick off in another dimension as she possessively clings to a baby doll, but much of Villains’ joy comes from the forged partnership between the Mickey and Jules. Monroe, the best part of Neil Jordan’s disappointing thriller Greta, is always a safe bet to deliver solid work (check her out in the little seen “After Everything”). Skarsgård’s beloved performance as Pennywise is obviously hard to top, but it’s great to see him play an altogether sweet and well intentioned character (even though he’s a criminal) in “Villains.”
Berk and Olsen’s previous feature was 2016’s “The Stakelander,” and I remember enjoying that film as well. Villains is a step up on a creative level, and if they decide to do another feature filled with thriller and noir style elements, I definitely wouldn’t mind.
Rating: 4 out of 5
“Villains” hits theaters today.
To listen to my review of “Villains,” check out the latest episode of CinemAddicts below (starts at 31:37):