Combustible Celluloid
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With: Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette, Kyle Mooney, Mischa Barton, Frankie Grande, Lala Kent, Joshua Ovalle, Reatha Grey, Caroline Hebert, Sunny Kim, Linas Phillips, John DeLuca, Jessalyn Gilsig
Written by: Eugene Kotlyarenko, Gene McHugh
Directed by: Eugene Kotlyarenko
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 93
Date: 08/14/2020

Spree (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Live Scream

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Starring Joe Keery, who is better known as Steve (with the hair) on Stranger Things, the lunatic Spree will clearly be offensive to many, but it's also insidiously appealing and fairly clever. It's available Friday via digital/VOD.

Keery plays Kurt Kunkle, who, for ten years, has dreamed of being a social media star, but has rarely even managed to get even double-digit numbers of views or likes.

As a Spree driver (the equivalent of Uber and Lyft), he installs cameras in his car and sets out for a night's work. His first passenger is a white supremacist on his way to give a speech. ("You're OK for a lib-tard!") Kurt gives him a complimentary water, and the passenger chokes and dies.

Yes, Kurt has set off on his own murder... spree. He live-streams everything, hoping to finally break out and go viral.

A sassy female comedian (Sasheer Zamata), and an entitled, sarcastic kid (Joshua Ovalle), whom Kurt used to babysit, both with huge social media numbers, figure into Kurt's increasingly insane night, as does his father (David Arquette), a DJ.

Many movies have tried to skewer social media and its ongoing impact on real life (Assassination Nation, Guns Akimbo, Nerve, Tragedy Girls, etc.), but this time writer Gene McHugh and director/co-writer Eugene Kotlyarenko seem to have a plan. Their conclusion is nothing unique, but the road to get there is surprisingly intriguing.

From the names Spree and Kurt Kunkle, to the split-screen way Spree is presented, mounted camera footage next to vertically-placed phones (complete with an unending scroll of comments and emojis), the movie continually re-adjusts the location of where the line is crossed.

But the key is Keery, who manages to wind Kurt up in a way that makes him both lovable and sociopathic. You can even feel sorry for him. Clearly he is prevented from social media greatness by his neediness; he's forever asking people to watch and subscribe and tag, etc.

Yet like a puppy wanting attention, he's also kinda sweet, perhaps a demented combination of Marty McFly and Patrick Bateman. Whatever its faults, at least some credit should be given to the makers of Spree for pulling that off.

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