Cuck, co-written and directed by first-timer Rob Lambert, is a dark look in a subculture that is becoming more and more worrisome every day. Although the film’s attempts at satire aren’t always as effective as they should be, this is nonetheless a surprisingly harrowing tale about how a person can become radicalized.
The movie follows an isolated loner who quickly gains popularity as an alt-right vlogger, causing him to become more and more radical. This is one of those slow-burn thrillers that isn’t particularly exciting in the beginning, but gets crazier and crazier as it goes on. Yet even though this tonal shift helps make the film more interesting, it also contributes to an identity crisis.
Since there is so much happening in the movie, it almost feels like Lambert can’t decide exactly what he wanted the film to be. Part of the movie is a portrait of a man’s descent into a dark hole, but another part of the film is a psychosexual thriller. Even though these two storylines do ultimately tie together, it takes too long for the movie to get there, and as such, there are portions in which one may be wondering exactly why they are watching what they are watching.
Perhaps the main reason why this film is so challenging is its character development. The protagonist, while not idealized, is shown in a way that is complex. Even though his actions and ideas are not presented in a way that is sympathetic or agreeable, the movie also blames the system for radicalizing him.
Ultimately, the film’s message seems to be that people like this need significant help, and the online culture surrounding this type of radical ideology is a breeding ground for toxicity. Although Ronnie claims to be an “okay” guy multiple times throughout the movie, it is obvious that Lambert doesn’t want the audience to feel the same way about the character. Rather, he is a person that sought help in the wrong place, sending him much deeper into the dark abyss.
Lead actor Zachary Ray Sherman gives a complex performance as the protagonist. It is often difficult for actors to pull off characters like Ronnie because it is hard to strike that balance between making the character feel dislikable but not like a caricature. By highlighting the humanity of the character, Sherman is able to portray him in a way that is interesting and unique.
On a technical level, Lambert’s film is somewhat problematic, but that can be expected given that he is a first-time director. One of the biggest issues with the visuals is that the whole thing looks and feels grey. To a certain extent, this does make sense given the moody feeling that dominates the film, but the movie also feels mostly unpleasant as a result.
Like another controversial film that came out last weekend, Cuck has the potential to be problematic if seen by the wrong people. However, unlike that movie’s director, Lambert actually tries to do something interesting and unique, and sometimes ends up succeeding.
Cuck is now in theaters and on VOD.