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VERY BAD THINGS

SYNOPSIS:
Groom to be, Kyle Fisher (Jon Favreau) is only days away from being married to the beautiful-but-insecure Laura (Cameron Diaz). A bachelor party in Las Vegas, including boozing, gambling, cocaine and a stripper/prostitute, is organised by his closest chums: real estate hotshot Robert Boyd (Christian Slater), straightlaced, father of two, Adam Berkow (Daniel Stern), and his jokester single brother Michael Berkow (Jeremy Piven), plus the taciturn Charles Moore (Leland Orser). When Michael accidentally kills the hooker in a rampaging sex bout in the bathroom, the five men face a choice, as Boyd points out. The choice they make, of course, will lead them down a road full of unexpected hazards, nightmares and a whole lot more difficult choices. And even more dead bodies.

"Peter Berg’s technically polished film is full of very good things, combining elements of fast paced black comedy, psychological drama and tragedy with the stylish ease of a born filmmaker. He manages to tell this almost unbelievable, yet also almost believable story in decisive strokes, using both the power of the spoken word and the moving image. It’s an essay on the highly infectious nature of mistakes we make. While Very Bad Things is primarily a morality tale – a naïve one which posits that if we do very bad things we will somehow pay for them – it doesn’t play like one. It plays its two-sided nature – comedy and drama – so skillfully that at times we feel guilty at laughing. The tragedy, carried in the characters of Laura and Boyd, surfaces at the end, also leaves us laughing, but only a hair’s breadth from crying; we can read the final scene either way. This is a pretty good achievement, especially for those who don’t always demand a pat and happy ending in our movies. Slater is superb, reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in his Chinatown period, with his dry delivery and edgy characterisation. Diaz is dazzling as the brittle bride, and the rest of the cast easily matches these two in strong, dramatically constructed performances that never succumb to playing for laughs. As for the film’s message, us cynics would argue that life is not so well organised as to reward the good and punish the bad things we do…"
Andrew L. Urban

"The male bonding ritual that has become part and parcel of contemporary urban society is given savage and incisive treatment here. First timer Peter Berg, former star of TV's Chicago Hope - clearly has a twisted view of the world, but it's a world treated with a macabre, intellectual insight. This is not a pleasant experience, mind you, and the film's central characters are a nasty, amoral group, but that's Berg's point in a tale that ends up evolving into a moralistic tale on the nature of Fate, God and where we end up if we don't follow the rules. Berg's directorial debut is an astonishing one. Visually, he has a clear, precise, punchy style, using colour effectively, shooting from the hip in a no nonsense style. The Vegas sequences show that corner of American pop culture, in all its brassy garishness, and those sequences alone show remarkable craftsmanship. Very Bad Things is a brazen, violent, savage work with its own sense of individuality and thoughtfulness, and the ensemble film contains some superb performances. Slater delivers his most articulate and mature performances to date; he's arresting from the first moment he appears on screen; Favreau is just as solid, as is Daniel Stern. Diaz continues to display range and versatility as the bride-from-hell. Beautifully and sharply executed, superbly cut together, incisively written, Very Bad Things is an arresting, uncompromising and disturbing modern horror film, with the psychos not deranged, but ordinary members of society whose mateship becomes their ultimate destruction. This is a fresh, energetic and quite brilliant work, which may not be for everybody; but then it doesn't try to be."
Paul Fischer

"The basic plot of Very Bad Things resembles that of Shallow Grave; but Danny Boyle and his team knew the key to black comedy is balance; not excess. It's a lesson the makers of Very Bad Things didn't learn. The script is excessive in nearly all respects - excessive violence, excessive horror, excessive goofball antics - but it lacks the insights that make a good black comedy. It starts out well, with the crucial sequence of the bachelor party handled with style by director Peter Berg (better known as an actor). But it then spirals out of control, unable or unwilling to say anything meaningful about the characters or their predicament. The final 20 minutes or so is laughable - for all the wrong reasons. The antagonist in the piece, Robert, is played with gleeful malice by Christian Slater, and his performance is the main reason to see the film. His trademark smirk and edgy mannerisms are utilised to full effect as the amoral real estate agent who orchestrates the cover-up. The other characters are less interesting, so much so that I found myself not even caring what happened to them. Cameron Diaz proved she could handle dark material in The Last Supper; but here she's largely wasted. The intelligence of The Last Supper is foregone for a Something-about-Mary style farce. Very Bad Things is too mean, too dumb, too base and ultimately too disjointed to effectively work as either thriller or comedy."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

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SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

VERY BAD THINGS (MA)
(US)

CAST: Christian Slater, Cameron Diaz, Daniel Stern, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Jon

Favreau, Jeremy Piven, Leland Orser

DIRECTOR: Peter Berg

PRODUCER: Cindy Cowan, Diane Nabatoff, Michael Schiffer

SCRIPT: Peter Berg

CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Hennings

EDITOR: Dan Lebental

MUSIC: Stewart Copeland

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dina Lipton

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 4, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: June 19, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar







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