The 400-Word Review: Random Acts of Violence
By Sean Collier
August 23, 2020
The key descriptor for “Random Acts of Violence,” the seedy new slasher directed and co-written by Jay Baruchel, is “confrontational.”
Every scene has conflict, whether on a micro level — say, a spat between romantic partners — or as it relates to the typified serial killer who is honing in on our anti-heroes. This is a movie that always has its fists clenched, whether for an argument or a desperate flight from certain death.
Todd (Jesse Williams) is the writer behind a long-running series of horror comic books dubbed “Slasherman,” a controversial series that places a real-life killer as the protagonist. With the encouragement of his partner, Kathy (Jordana Brewster), he’s putting the series to bed; at present, he’s searching for a fitting ending. Kathy, meanwhile, is working on a book about the real-life killer’s victims, seeking to counter some of the criticism of her partner’s work by adding the dead to the narrative.
With their publisher (Baruchel) and a frazzled assistant (Niamh Wilson) in tow, they set off on a cross-country road trip meant to inspire Todd and increase hype for the end of the series. Before they get far, odd echoes of Todd’s comics start creeping into the real world; within days, bodies are turning up, arranged in tribute to the writer’s creations.
Undeniably, “Random Acts of Violence” is unfocused. We divert to the first set of victims for an extended aside that is at once a tedious diversion and not nearly long enough to foster any genuine interest; movie-spanning flashbacks pay off in a confusing third-act reveal; style often reins over substance. Baruchel shows promise as a director, but he’ll need to corral his more showy instincts to develop.
More fatally, the story falls apart. Baruchel co-wrote the screenplay with Jesse Chabot; it’s based on a 2010 graphic novel by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, so it’s tough to guess where the blame lies. Whoever is responsible for the story’s ending, though, clearly ran out of ideas and attempted to tie unconnected threads into a loose bow.
That’s at least an interesting problem, in that the movie is about a creator who can’t come up with an ending.
It doesn’t make “Random Acts of Violence” a necessarily worthwhile watch, however; it’s slick and interesting, but ultimately thin. It’s a movie with a lot of questions about media depictions of violence; it could’ve used some of the answers.
My Rating: 6/10
“Random Acts of Violence” is streaming on Shudder.