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Case Number 18093: Small Claims Court

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The Vicious Kind

Image Entertainment // 2009 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // January 14th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Roy Hrab prefers the delicious kind, like smoked meat on rye.

The Charge

How would you protect someone from their first love?

The Case

The Vicious Kind comes to DVD riding the high of being a darling of the 2009 festival circuit, including a screening at Sundance and grabbing up some Independent Spirit Award nominations. The film clearly has admirers, but is it worthy of your attention, dear reader?

Peter (Alex Frost, Drillbit Taylor) brings his girlfriend, Emma (Brittany Snow, Prom Night), to meet his father, Peter (J.K. Simmons, I Love You, Man) during Thanksgiving. The young couple get there by hitching a ride with Caleb (Adam Scott, Step Brothers), Peter's older brother.

Caleb is in a vicious mood, having been dumped recently by his girlfriend for reasons unknown. As a result, he can't sleep and spouts derogatory remarks about women. He insults and threatens Emma, who, it seems, bares a resemblance to Caleb's former flame. Following one unpleasant interaction, Emma drills Caleb in the face with a punch. Fair enough, but Caleb, somewhat obsessed with Emma, keeps coming back and she doesn't turn him away (or tell Peter about the harassment). To top it off, despite their short and hostile relationship, the pair ends up engaging in intimate acts in Caleb's bedroom at the family home. Huh?

Oh, right! Sex and violence—how Freudian is that? Very, but that doesn't mean it makes sense here. The problem is that aside from being smokers, they don't have anything in common. Of course, it could be that Emma is attracted to Caleb because Peter is such a milquetoast. In any case, the appeal is never made clear or hinted at. It just happens.

The set-up for the betrayal of Peter is equally clunky. Emma and Caleb are able to have their tryst without anyone in the house knowing because Donald is nearly deaf and unable to hear the action while Peter has run away somewhere to sulk after failing to shed his virginity with Emma earlier the same night.

The piece ends with a hastily constructed reconciliation of sorts, involving revelations about Donald and his deceased wife, and a sign of fraying relationships elsewhere. It is all as unsatisfying as what has already transpired.

Adam Scott gives a strong performance as Caleb and is the only compelling reason to watch The Vicious Kind. He has a well-defined character with the film's best lines, and he carries it off well. The rest of the ensemble is fine, except for Frost. There is little he can do to bring the ultra-bland and underwritten Peter to life.

The review copy was a screener, so I cannot comment on video and audio quality. Nor can I make any remarks on the extras because the screener did not include any of the advertised features.

The Vicious Kind is a dialogue heavy, awkwardly structured film geared towards the independent film crowd. If you count yourself in that group, then partake. However, if you've already had your fill of dysfunctional family movies set during a holiday, take a pass.

The Verdict


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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 68

Perp Profile

Studio: Image Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Drama
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Deleted/Extended Scenes
• Featurette
• Trailer


• IMDb
• Official Site

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