The Death of Dick Long, the sophomore feature from director Daniel Schienert (one half of the duo behind Swiss Army Man), is a bizarre new dark comedy based on a single gag so weird that it’s hard to believe. However, in an attempt to go darker, Schienert loses the infectious charm that made his first film so successful and instead delivers a disappointing exercise in shock value.
The story follows two men in a rural small town whose best friend died the night before as they attempt to cover up their involvement. The first half of the movie is a pretty compelling mystery as the audience is left without information known by the characters and is watching them as they fumble around trying to cover it up. However, once that reveal is eventually made, there is little left to enjoy.
Much of the intrigue of the film comes from trying to figure out what happened to the eponymous character. A majority of the movie’s most compelling moments come in the first half as bits of information are slowly revealed to the audience, letting viewers a little bit more access into the story. Ultimately, the final reveal is simply made too soon, as the film doesn’t seem to know what to do with the remainder of its runtime.
For the first half of the movie, the humor is mostly of the lowbrow type, leaving the audience laughing at the two leads as they are trying to cover-up what happened with limited success. Then, just about when this style starts to feel old, the film attempts to make a drastic tonal shift, and here is where it falls apart. The initial shock value will elicit a few uneasy laughs, but soon after, viewers will be left counting the seconds until the movie ends.
Part of the reason why the film doesn’t work quite as well as intended is that the character development is lackluster. To a certain extent, the audience will sympathize with the leads as lovable goofs, but especially once the reveal is made, their actions aren’t particularly likable or compelling. It is difficult to pull off a movie with such flawed characters, and writer Billy Chew didn’t quite hit the mark.
That said, the actors give committed performances that help make the film become slightly more enjoyable. Leads Michael Abbott Jr. and Andre Hyland have very good chemistry together and make a great comedic duo. Some of the movie’s highlights are the scenes in which they just get to bounce lines off of each other. The supporting cast is also strong, with solid turns from Sarah Baker, Jess Weixler, and Sunita Mani.
Schienert’s visual style also helps elevate the film. The cinematography is surprisingly good, emphasizing the old-school and rural feel of the movie. The use of music is also very interesting, the soundtrack being comprised of unique picks which one would not normally expect from a film like this.
Unfortunately, a weak script holds The Death of Dick Long back from reaching its potential as a dark comedy. The talent is there behind and in front of the camera, but without solid material to work with, the whole experience feels like a wash.
The Death of Dick Long is now available on VOD.