THE DEATH OF DICK LONG is the latest film from director Daniel Scheinert (one half of the Swiss Army Man duo known as Daniels), from a screenplay by Billy Chew, about a man named Dick who dies under mysterious circumstances and his friends, Zeke and Earl, do whatever it takes so no one finds out how. The film stars Michael Abbott Jr. (Mud), Virginia Newcomb (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Andre Hyland (The 4th), Sarah Baker (The Kominsky Method), Jess Weixler (Teeth), Sunita Mani (Glow), Roy Wood Jr. (The Daily Show), Poppi Cunningham (Cherry) and Janelle Cochrane (Big Fish). THE DEATH OF DICK LONG had its World Premiere at 2019’s Fantastic Fest.
To best describe the plot, I’ll turn to the official synopsis as follows: “Holy Crap. Dick is dead. Died last night after band practice, and his bandmates, Zeke & Earl (Michael Abbott, Jr. & Andre Hyland), don’t want anybody finding out how. That’s too bad though, ’cause news travels fast in small town Alabama, and these guys suck at covering their tracks. The authorities haven’t ID the body just yet, but Zeke’s wife (Virginia Newcomb) and his daughter (Poppy Cunningham) are suspicious already.
The film opens with the introduction of Dick, Zeke and Earl as they are jamming out in Zeke’s basement. Everything is washed in a orange hue, with everyone happy and drunk and high, followed by Dick looking at his two friends and saying, “Ya’ll motherfuckers wanna git weird” before they set off a series of fireworks and head inside a nearby barn. The tone then quickly changes as we see Zeke and Earl racing to the hospital after something happens to Dick, leaving him outside the emergency room before returning home and attempting to cover any trace of possible wrongdoings. It’s important to understand that these guys are the type of people you don’t want covering anything up because what ends up unfolding is a series of errors that are not only hilarious, but also completely fucked up, as we come to learn the true nature of Dick’s passing.
This is one of those movies that completely took me by surprise, so much so that I’m still reeling from the uncomfortable and shocking reveal. What really sells this film, aside from Billy Chew‘s writing and Daniel Scheinert directing, are the character interactions, especially between Zeke and Earl. They encompass that red-neck Alabama bumpkin that is so often stereotyped with their Confederate Flags hanging proudly as they blast late 90’s/early 2000’s tracks from Staind, Creek and Nickelback. Daniel Scheinert was smart to bring on Southern actors Michael Abbott Jr. and Andre Hyland because they gave their characters that extra elevation in terms of realism. Furthermore, the actors have a genuine chemistry with one another and play off of each character’s strength and weaknesses. Where Zeke is really nervous after what has transpired and hoping that he can cover up everything so his wife and daughter don’t figure things out, Earl is more laid back and almost annoyed that he has to do anything outside of chillin and incessantly smoking his vape in the most douche-bag way possible. (Side note: that vape could have been a character all on its own).
While Zeke and Earl bumble their way through everything after dropping Dick off at the hospital, we meet the police force tasked with finding out what happened to dear old Dick, or as they know him, their John Doe. Sarah Baker, who plays Officer Dudley, is a few notches up in the IQ department compared to Zeke and Earl, but that’s not saying a whole lot. That said, Baker gives a hilarious performance as a newly trained officer who is excited over the thought of taking down a killer. She ended up being one of my favorite characters in the film and I imagine there’s a lot of us who can relate to her wholesome level of ambition. I also really appreciated Virginia Newcomb’s performance as a wife trying to figure out why her husband is being so god damn weird. When the truth is set free, I can only imagine that her reaction would be similar to any of ours and she goes about capturing that perfectly in her series of facial reactions.
What I found to be the most interesting aspect of the film, though, was the huge change in tone that takes place during the third act. What started as a goofy film with a mysterious death, ended up being a serious film about the secrets we keep and the devastation they can cause to those we love the most. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I felt bad for Zeke and Earl – well I didn’t feel bad for Earl at all – but at least Zeke eventually came to terms, after finding himself caught in his own lies, with what he needed to do knowing the pain it would cause. I wasn’t expecting to feel any sympathy but I found myself feeling a bit sad for Zeke and the situation he found himself in.
All in all, I am so glad I got to see all the weirdness that is THE DEATH OF DICK LONG. It’s a film that is going to take viewers on a crazy adventure, some of which they never asked to know about, which is kind of what makes this such a bizarrely special film. My suggestion is to go into this film as blind as possible and be prepared to laugh, as well as cringe in disgust, upon learning the truth of how Dick Long dies.
THE DEATH OF DICK LONG arrives in theaters nationwide on September 27th and On Demand October 8th.
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