|Very Bad Things
1998 - R - 100 Mins.
|Director: Peter Berg
|Producer: Cindy Cowan
|Written By: Peter Berg
|Starring: Jon Favreau, Cameron Diaz, Christian Slater, Jeremy Piven, Daniel Stern, Jeanne Tripplehorn
|Review by: Harrison Cheung
1998’s black comedy, ‘Very Bad Things,’ marked the directorial debut of actor, Peter Berg, the goofily good-looking tall actor from ‘Chicago Hope’ as well as a number of films like ‘Collateral’ and ‘The Last Seduction.’ Berg has done what very few actors have – shifted mid-career gears into a successful turn as director. In 2003, he helmed The Rock’s ‘The Rundown’ which secured Berg’s place as an action director. But it was with ‘Very Bad Things’ in which Berg demonstrated that he could both write and direct a darkly absurd comedy. ‘Very Bad Things’ ended up a film festival favorite, scoring a number of awards for its screenplay and one acting award for Christian Slater.
When a group of buddies heads to Las Vegas for a weekend bachelor’s party, things get out of hand when the stripper-for-hire is accidentally killed. Well, there’s nothing like a murder to find out who your friends are. With a stellar cast that includes: Jon Favreau, Cameron Diaz, Christian Slater, Jeremy Piven, Daniel Stern and Jeanne Tripplehorn, ‘Very Bad Things’ is a wicked, savage comedy that tests the boundaries of friendship, good taste and life’s priorities.
As the bride-to-be, Cameron Diaz is absolutely terrifying as she bullies her fiancé (Favreau) during disciplined wedding planning sessions. She has a small mock-up of the reception area so that she can play around with the seating. She also has a post-wedding plan for her new husband to be rid of his current circle of friends so this Vegas weekend is practically a last shout/farewell party. Diaz’s reaction to the murder is worth the price of the DVD rental alone. Nothing is going to rain on her parade, not even murder. This is Diaz’s most extreme performance, a nice upside-down flip of her usual “I’m the new Meg Ryan” giggly persona.
Christian Slater, once white-hot as Young Hollywood’s answer to Jack Nicholson, is happy and effective in a pivotal supporting role. In effect, he’s reprising his star-making role from ‘Heathers’ as he’s all coolly reptilian and even-tempered under crisis. Yet when he blows his stack…. There are even lines which pay homage to his ‘Heathers’ character.
Favreau (‘Swingers’) is the weakest link in this otherwise flawless comic ensemble. While chaos surrounds him after the accident, he doesn’t seem to know if he’s going to play panicked or calm. The result is that Favreau just appears uninvolved, happy to let the rest of the cast crank up the heat.
Piven is fascinating as the party animal who falls apart under pressure. It’s a riveting portrayal of a cocky bastard who gets emasculated by calamity.
‘Very Bad Things’ remains one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen – which probably says a lot about my own morbid sense of humor! But who knew that the mild-mannered Berg had such a wicked story inside him? Defiantly unconventional and unapologetically politically incorrect, you’ll be surprised at what you’re laughing at in ‘Very Bad Things.’