Director Daniel Scheinert has been quoted as calling his new film, The Death of Dick Long, “the redneck Hangover,” but that’s a bit of misnomer. Yes, the plot does involve a group of guys getting into some wild stuff, thanks to the influence of drugs, alcohol, and peer pressure, but the film’s tone is about as non-comedic as you can get.
Since the title gives it away, it’s no spoiler to say that Dick Long (Scheinert) dies soon after the opening sequence, which gives a brief glimpse into the crazy night he, Zeke Olsen (Michael Abbott Jr.), and Earl Wyeth (Andre Hyland) experience. Scared that they will be implicated in Dick’s death, the cause of which remains a mystery for much of the film, Zeke and Early do everything in their power to keep their involvement a secret.
Unfortunately for them both, they are very bad at covering things up. An attempt at hiding blood evidence in a car leads to a tense situation with Zeke’s daughter. Zeke acts nothing but guilty in front of his wife, Lydia (Virginia Newcomb), as does Earl in front of his neighbor, Lake (Sunita Mani). And Zeke can’t seem to help attracting the attention of police officer Dudley (Sarah Baker) at every turn.
Scheinert and writer Billy Chew play up the ineptitude of their characters to the nth degree, as almost nothing can seem to go right for them. While some of it is funny — a Pulp Fiction reference and some of the revelations among them — most of it is gut-churning bordering on tragic. Zeke and Earl are idiots, to be sure, but you still root for them to succeed. Consequently, every time they figuratively shoot themselves in the feet, it’s another moment of tension.
Still, there’s a creeping feeling throughout that, no matter what secrets come out by the end of the film, the movie as a whole is spinning its wheels. The filmmakers seem to be held hostage by their own plot devices, and as twists slowly but surely start to come out, each one seems more underwhelming than the next. Even the ultimate revelation, as out-of-the-norm as it is, is delivered in a ho-hum way.
The film’s main stars, Abbott and Hyland, are relative unknowns, but Scheinert (Swiss Army Man) filled supporting roles with semi-familiar faces like Newcomb, Mani, Baker, Jess Weixler, and Roy Wood Jr. The story may have some lacks, but each of the actors is given at least a scene or two in which to shine, and they all do well in their respective roles.
The film is an interesting diversion for most of its running time, but it’s hard not to feel like the filmmakers could have done more with the concept. Its mixture of tones had the potential to pay dividends, but The Death of Dick Long comes up short.