Random Acts of Violence (2021)

I’m a big fan of Jay Baruchel (the actor), and as director of “Random Acts of Violence,” his adaptation of the original graphic novel by Jimmy Palmiotti wastes so much of its potential. It’s a great concept, with great commentary that amounts to a sub-par horror movie. The still relevant themes about how society tends to lionize serial killers, the unusual serial killer culture that most people tend to celebrate, and how most of their victims are virtually ignored begs for a dark horror movie of this ilk. Sadly, there is not a single substantial thing we can take away from all of this in the end.

Adapted from Jimmy Palmiotti’s graphic novel, Canadian comic book creator Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams) is taking a road trip with his wife Kathy (Jordana Brewster) and his best friend Ezra (Jay Baruchel) through America, looking for creative inspiration finishing up his wildly popular SLASHERMAN comic book series. On the lonely roads of America they eventually cross paths with the notorious killer who originally inspired SLASHERMAN.

Baruchel and co. seem to be convinced that they’re making a statement (even with a melodramatic confrontation during a radio interview), but that’s all tossed in the crapper by the time we meet the film’s slasher. So should we be careful about who we lionize? Does the narrative intimate that we should be embarrassed for liking comic books? Is there an implication that comic book fans are all potential maniacs? Should we be careful who we attempt to appeal to with our art? Is there actually a limit to what can be considered art and what can be thought of as just pure exploitation? Are Todd and Ezra to blame for the serial killer or not?

There are just so many questions that the movie props up that it never even bothers to competently confront. The script never even settles down for a bit to gauge any of the multitude of topics, as Baruchel is much more concerned with transforming his movie in to a slasher film. Granted, Baruchel’s direction is great and his staging of some of the bigger slasher set pieces are fantastic. The first killing that sets the motion for the narrative is intense and he doesn’t step back from the brutal violence and inherent chaos that emerges once our killer begins striking. For what it’s worth, Baruchel and Jesse Williams are also very good in their roles. Jordana Brewster is also very good while Niamh Wilson is adorable; I wish we’d seen so much more of her.

There’s so much commentary that’s ripe to develop in to a deep, haunting, and interesting study about pop culture, and the influence art can have on us. Sadly, most of that is thrown by the wayside as “Random Acts of Violence” submits to an inconsistent tone, uneven narrative, superficial themes, and absolutely muddled climax. It’s definitely one of the more disappointing horror entries of 2021, yet.

Now streaming on Shudder, and is available on VOD, Digital HD, DVD & Blu-ray.