"The Vicious Kind" DVD, Blu-ray Review

5/03/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review

"The Vicious Kind"

Directed by Lee Toland Krieger, Written by Krieger, 92 Minutes, Rated R

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and Peter Sinclaire (Alex Frost) is coming home from college to introduce his girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow) to his widowed father Donald (J.K. Simmons). Peter's brother, Caleb (Adam Scott), hasn't spoken to Donald in eight years--not since their mother died. And, in indie dark comedy tradition, the conflicts of this dysfunctional family all will come to a head before the holiday is over.

The film plays like a mix between Noah Baumbach and Neil Labute (the latter of which co-produced the film). Caleb, who we spend most of the film with, has that typical Labute way about him--a dry, cold maliciousness to every word, all covering up an obvious desire to reconnect with the family from which he's estranged. Adam Scott, who for a long time seemed sort of stuck in less-than-impressive supporting roles in stuff like "Step Brothers" or "Knocked Up," is really coming into his own, especially here. He's quick-witted, very funny, and despite how reprehensible his character comes across for almost the entire running time, Scott still manages to make the character relatable and likable.

This also is a pretty strong step forward for Brittany Snow (of "John Tucker Must Die," among other mindless teen stuff). She doesn't quite match Scott, but it's a solid effort and she definitely has a chance in dramatic work if she keeps it up.

It seems to me that indie family dramas like this are a dime a dozen lately. It tends to go like this--you've got your "Junebug," then you've got the work of Neil Labute and Noah Baumbach, and then the rest tends to be take-it-or-leave-it vanilla stuff that has potential but tends to get bogged down in a lot of the cliches this sort-of subgenre has collected at this point. But much like the performances in "The Vicious Kind," the film somehow manages to transcend its competitors. I don't know what it is--the writing is definitely a lot sharper and more real than a lot of other efforts like this. It's obvious why Labute co-produced, because his trademark pessimism and narcissism is right there in every word Scott's character utters. It's also a lot funnier than typical indie dark comedies tend to be.

I suppose it all comes down to Lee Krieger's direction--for a newcomer, he avoids the mistakes so many indie directors make (lots of pointless slow motion, lots of sad musical montages, a cold aesthetic and distance from his characters) and actually brings a lot of heart to what ultimately is a pretty dreary affair. And, as previously mentioned, he put together a pretty great cast, with Scott obviously at the top of his game, and joined by Alex Frost (of Gus Van Sant's "Elephant") and JK Simmons.  So, cast is unbeatable (and, most importantly, they feel like a family).

With one solid film under his belt, Krieger is definitely one to watch. He clearly has an eye for human nature and one can never have too many Neil Labutes or Noah Baumbachs. And I think Adam Scott has a big career ahead of him as well.

Grade: B

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