A tricky proposition, Danny Madden’s Gen-Z teen movie Beast Beast is something of a challenge to write about, in that the last third of the film is pre-occupied with a single issue, which is gun violence. That subject couldn’t be more timely in terms of tackling the current epidemic of shootings in the US, but the film’s structure makes it impossible to discuss without creating some awareness in the viewer about what’s coming down the pike towards the end. Like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, Beast Beast can only surprise once in the telling, and like the characters it portrays, options are reduced as the narrative progresses to a bitter end.
Krista (Shirley Chen) is part of her local high-school drama programme; a fate far worse than death, one might imagine. But Krista develops feelings for Nito (Jose Angeles), a skateboarder of some talent and charisma, and the two of them become something of an item. Nito, however, runs with a rougher crowd, and a spot of breaking and entering leads him into conflict with Adam (Will Madden), a rifle-obsessed loner who dreams of internet fame via a YouTube channel. When social–media viewers deride his amateurish content, Adam sees Nito’s arrival as an opportunity to defend his property, but also to expand his own fame.
Beast Beast doesn’t give a balanced portrayal of the issues connected to guns; it’s a straight-up polemic, with a few jarringly unconvincing notes. Adam’s sudden endorsement by the law-enforcement community seems like a stretch, even in such politically loaded times, and incredulity about this twist hobbles late narrative developments. That said, Beast Beast has a lot to recommend it as a Kids-style indie, with fluent performances from Chen and Angeles, under the guiding hands of producer Jim Cummings (Thunder Road) and exec-producer Alec Baldwin.
It’ll take more than a movie to change minds about guns; the news-footage of long lines of Americans queuing at gun-shops at the start of the pandemic suggested how possession of loaded weapons is linked to the survivalist psyche. But there’s been a lot of talk about gun control, and not much action, and fatigue has set it; it’s a shame when the observance of teenage life ends here and the moralising takes over. Like another recently reviewed youth film, Hit Record, there’s also an important message about the dangers of social media, and the point is well made that views and likes should not be anything other than generating hits for someone else’s platform. Beast Beast has too much work to do to justify its shocking conclusion; the gear-changes are just too jarring, even if the broad strokes mean that the film would serve as a good basis for a classroom discussion. But despite some flaws, this is a promising work from Madden, and particularly from a young cast who convince with their natural, unaffected performances.
Blue Finch Film Releasing presents Beast Beast on Digital Download 30 April
Interesting review.. I have a screener link for it that now I think I want to watch! Thank you.. I watched a film at SXSW called The Fallout – I think it will be out sometime – but it’s also a fantastic look at this difficult subject.
I’ll look out for The Fallout. I remember talking to critics after the Elephant screening in Cannes, and they said that few would have the same experience they did; seeing a film blind that would turn out to be about a high school shooting. After the first screening, it would always be seen as an issue-based film, but that’s not what their first impression was; they thought it was a teen/high school movie until that point. Beast Beast has a similar feel, but reviews can only weaken the shock effect here…as I noted, Beast Beast might work best as an educational tool, or a basis for discussion.
A tricky subject and a bold choice and possibly unlikely to change already committed minds but it may challenge the thinking of the young for whom the cast might have more appeal.
Young people much like myself
Were you ever in your school’s drama production/programme, Dix?
Yes! YouTube had a really shaky VHS transfer of him singing “My Ding-a-ling” in a Grade 4 variety show. But they took it down for violating various terms of service and just generally being indecent.
Oh no. Oh no. Oh no! I would have payed good money to see it! I’m absolutely gutted. Alex, is there any way, shape or form, that you could track this down?
I’ll have to ask his mom. She might still have it on tape.
No point asking him. I think he’s attending the Brony Convention at the Tamworth Snowdome today. Not likely to see any pictures or video of that either . . .
We can only pray.
Yes, this seems to be a very inconvenient time for him, doesn’t it? I guess he just finds his Brony friends more important than us *sniff*. But it’s always amusing to see him trying to catch up with a conversation. Provides my daily dose of entertainment.
Just a lot of extra work for us having to run things while he goes AWOL. Meanwhile, he promises home deliveries of scones and a review of Mortal Kombat and delivers bupkis.
I think we should definitely get in contact with Robbie Collins. I’ll start drafting an email. And yes, I’m still waiting for my scones too…
Yes, contact the Young Conservative movement, I’m sure they’ll be happy to entertain a couple of Bozos like you two. Maybe bring your own picture of Oswald Mosely.
You guys couldn’t run a tap. I have a popular blog. You don’t. Discuss.
Still no scones. No Mortal Kombat review. And no thanks for keeping the lights on here when you go conventioneering.
How exactly is this helping?
Sigh. What do I have to gain by engaging in such mummery?
Leave my mother out of this, Bunty. I know where yours lives.
Well then we’ll have to introduce them. My mom’s VCR is still hooked up to her TV so your mom can bring over the tape and we can all watch it together and eat cookies and Rice Krispie squares. Good times!
File under F for fantasy.
Unlikely since it’s in Alex’s imagination.
Hmm…I think this fictional comment says more about Alex and his imagination than me. Fake news.
How was the convention? Did you do any skiing?
I was the policeman in my school production of Oliver! I had a whistle to blow and one line of dialogue.
Pretty cool to have a whistle if you ask me. Who was the casting director? They could have a future in the industry from what I’m hearing…
Why, what are you hearing?
I’m hearing that the 1910 Blanefield production of Oliver! was a resounding success and that the little boy who played a policeman was very well behaved…
How about you? I’ll be you were a proper little Nureyev at your local finishing school, Swan Lake was it?
Sorry the delay, Dix. I wasn’t much of a dancer unfortunately, but I was cast as the MAIN CHARACTER (a chimney sweep) in a Mary Poppins rip off. Had to share the role with a twerp though.
I think we need y to o know a bit more about this venture. Title? Role? Moves?
The dance went as follows: thrust, spin, turn, pivot, robot, dosey doe, repeat, two step, two step, spin, thrust, before closing with the matrix. Title not sure. I think my character was called Jim. He stole a pie, or something? I don’t know.
As a qualified agent of the Mary Poppins Copyright Theft department, I serve notice that you are under arrest.
Hey, I was only cast as an innocent child. The teachers should be arrested, that I agree upon.
That must be the fastest flip in plea-bargaining history. Maybe dance IS your thing after all.
I know when I’m beat. And who knows? My dosey doe certainly was impressive. Who needs blogging? I’m gonna be a dancer!
Hmmm. Sounds like one of those parts they give the kids who can’t do anything but have to appear on stage or their moms get mad at the school board.
You seem to know a lot about being a problem child.
What is the meaning of the title?
Good question. It’s something said during the drama exercises, and is a kind of Big Bad Wolf thing if you ask me. Like when Penelope Pitstop goes “Help, it’s the Hooded Claw’ if that helps.
So it IS something taken directly from the movie then.
Sometimes titles seem to be an obscure point where the director (is it the director who chooses the movie name?) picks something that has a tangential relationship to the movie and only makes sense in his own mind.
Usually the director, and yes, sometimes the title comes from a proverb that the director knows, or something not obvious; ie Straw Dogs. You are right on all counts. You have won five pairs of ladies tights.
Hey, that’s progress. Last time I only won 2 pair.
You’re going up in the world!
A mere 60 comments, cracking down on time wasters.
That’s a handleable number….
Glad you asked, saves me doing it.
The case for a highlights programme is getting stronger. Play by play analysis and key questions answered.
At least it’s not a floor full of dead cats.
A highlights programme? Where?
Like Match of the Day or Test Match Special. Jolly music, discussion.
Ok what channel or is this a YouTube thing?
It’s imaginary right now; Captain Booky is finding is tiring to read 150 comments a day, and needs things in a more accessibe way. So i think a highligts programme would be the way forward….maybe ask Jon Snow to present?
God nope! He’s dreadful. Blerk.
Jon Snow is just as bad!
You are not making any sense.
Doesn’t sound like my thing. I feel sorry enough for young people.
Are the Maddens brothers?
Brothers, as far as I know. Why do you feel sorry for young people?
Social media. The economy. Environmental collapse.
“Thank god I am not a young man, in so thoroughly finished a world.” Goethe
Goethe, is he some kind of young persons’s spokeman, like Carrot Top?
He is indeed. I feel like I should be charging you tuition.
Yup, I remember reading his Elective Affinities. Wouldn’t have expected Carrot Top to write a book like that, but still, impressive work.
The Top is a Renaissance dude.
Young people feel sorry for you, Alex.
Carrot Top is older than I am.
Did I say Carrot Top was older than you? No.
I said that even young people, burdened by social media, Covid-19 and other issues, still look at mutant hermits like yourself and feel pity. Quite a different thing.
That doesn’t stop me feeling sorry for them.
They pity you like Mr T pities fools.
Who is Carrot Top? Is it a Scootish cartoon?
No, I’m a Scottish cartoon. Carrot Top is a American comic and Alex’s literary hero.
Will have to google.
I feel sorry for Mr. T.
Are you replying to your own comment? What a muppet….