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With: Jesse Williams, Jordana Brewster, Jay Baruchel, Niamh Wilson
Written by: Jay Baruchel, Jesse Chabot, based on a comic by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti
Directed by: Jay Baruchel
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 85
Date: 08/21/2020

Random Acts of Violence (2020)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Serial Comic

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jay Baruchel's adaptation of a 2010 comic delivers the gore and a few relatable characters, but its main theme, a meta-meditation on violence in media and in real life, remains curiously superficial.

In Random Acts of Violence, comic book creator Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams) and publisher Ezra (Jay Baruchel) have had a huge success with their R-rated indie title Slasherman, which was based on a real-life case. To promote what will be the final issue, Todd and Ezra take a road trip, along with Todd's girlfriend Kathy (Jordana Brewster) and assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson), passing through the real killer's original small-town territory. Kathy hopes to do a book about the killer's victims, while Todd searches in vain for the proper ending for his tale. Unfortunately, a rash of new killings begin, and the crime scenes scarily resemble scenes from Todd's comics.

As Random Acts of Violence begins with an intriguing look at Todd and Kathy's relationship, it looks as if it's going to have a certain dedication to characters. Certainly they, including Ezra and Aurora, are fun and/or likable, but it's not long before they sputter and stall. Todd writer's block, for example, is not the most dynamic or visual thing, and Ezra is little more than a pest, forever badgering Todd to finish his book.

Moreover, the disconnect between Kathy's empathetic book about the victims, and Todd's exploitative comic about the killer, should have driven more of a dramatic wedge into the story and characters. But the movie never goes very deep. When the killings start, they all involve new characters introduced moments earlier, so there's no emotional connection. Finally, the commentary on violence just runs around in circles with a life-imitates-art-imitates-life motion, without ever landing on an idea. Certainly gore hounds will squeal to the movie's creative killings, but Random Acts of Violence promises, and could have been, much more.

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