Maika Monroe deserves to be a massive star. She first came on to my, and many folks’, radar with her tremendous turn in It Follows. More than just a scream queen in the making, Monroe had an X factor about her that suggested greatness. She again shows that in the new comedic thriller Villains, which teams her up with three other massively entertaining performances to craft a wholly surprising delight. Opening this week, the film easily could have been little more than a knock off of Quentin Tarantino’s work, but instead, it finds its own quirky wavelengths and delights from start to finish.
The movie is a mixture of comedy, drama, horror, and thriller, all told with the allure of a crime caper. Jules (Monroe) and Mickey (Bill Skarsgård) are a couple hoping to rob their way to a new life in Florida. After holding up a gas station, they’re thrilled and on their way…until they realize that they never filled their car’s tank, opting for the money instead. Stranded on the side of the road, they walk a bit and see a secluded house, one that appears empty. They break in and hope to find a new set of wheels. While exploring the home, they stumble upon a young girl (Blake Baumgartner) chained up in the basement. Decidedly unsettled, things get even weirder when the homeowners return. George (Jeffrey Donovan) and Gloria (Kyra Sedgwick) are old fashioned, polite, and look like they could have been neighbors in Leave It To Beaver. However, it only takes a momentarily slip up for Jules and Mickey to be captured by them, setting off a cat and mouse game that’s as funny as it is tension filled. Dan Berk and Robert Olsen share writing and directing duties, with cinematography by Matt Mitchell, and a score from Andrew Hewitt.
Villains is an unexpected blast. Fronted by four strong performances, but especially by Maika Monroe’s turn, there’s a ton of fun to be had here. Donovan and Sedgwick manage to be equally hilarious and ominous, crafting the two real baddies into immediately memorable characters. Skarsgård is having a blast as well, bumbling through the picture. Then, there’s Monroe, who’s an absolute firebrand. She sparks all of her scenes and brings a hefty emotional quotient to the serious scenes. It’s one of her best performances and suggests that the sky is the limit for her talents. Together, the four are a joy to watch try and outsmart each other, especially in the second act where the lunacy is just getting started.
Monroe’s performance grounds the entire picture, though it’s far from the only thing to praise here. Berk and Olsen recognize her talents, but they also provide a sparkling screenplay for the cast to latch on too. Their direction is simple yet effective, but they’re equally funny and tense script is what shines through. If this is a calling card for them, they could easily be on to bigger and better things too. Monroe might be the star you remember, but don’t sleep on Berk and Olsen, who have a brilliant handle on how to play with genre.
This weekend, anyone looking for a fun little genre mashup would do well to seek Villains out. Who knew four bad people could lead to so much in the way of a good time? Especially for fans of Monroe (or even Skarsgård), there’s a really hearty performance here to latch on to. It’s not the kind of movie that wins awards, but when it comes to entertainment, this one is absolutely top notch…
Be sure to check out Villains, in theaters on Friday!