04/22/2013 03:06 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Great on Netflix: God Bless America

Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America might be one of the last movies you want to watch, but it's probably the first you need to. This strange, bloody and yet unusually funny film is the story of beaten-down 50-something Bobcat-surrogate Frank. Spurned by his 9-year-old daughter, fired for sending flowers, his insomnia is spent channel-surfing the sewer of reality TV with watery eyes and ever-deepening sorrow. At the height of his sadness Frank places a military-issue pistol against the roof of his mouth but never fires. Instead he hears the hysterical fits of a Sweet 16 show starlet on TV, and realizes that there are people more deserving of death.


So he kills her. Drives to her school, approaches her in the parking lot, and blows her blood around. Thus begins the main action of God Bless America: a cross-country killing spree, fueled by a hate of modern society, the psychopathic passions of his accomplice Roxy, and Bobcat Goldthwait's manifesto on what is wrong with the world. Together Frank and Roxy roam the land knocking off the irksome types--arrogant television stars, movie theatre talkers, parking space takers--in self-righteous judgment on society descended into the mud. In the day of mass-after-mass shootings, it's satisfying in a way I'd forgotten gratuitous violence could be.


It's not this gratuitous gore, however, that's most disturbing about God Bless America (although the baby-shooting scene toward the beginning nearly takes the cake). Instead, it's how accurately Goldthwait mirrors modern culture, and what that means. As Frank channel surfs from one mega-hit substitute to another, you realize you know the plot to every show vignette before it plays out: the 16-year-old is going to throw a tantrum over getting the wrong car, classless courtesans will do something disgusting in their brawl. When Frank then delivers his long-winded monologues about how we're just not nice anymore, how we pick on the wrong people, how any and everyone's priorities are so out of order, you start to realize that he's right--or worse, that you've thought the same thing. Suddenly, as Frank clicks back the hammer, in the safety of this pseudo-reality you're glad to see his victims go. What started as a Netflix rental has devolved into your complicity in murder, and one more subscriber to Goldthwait's view of society. Even if portions of it are ripped directly from his standup.


As you can probably tell, God Bless America is not a feel-good movie. Though funny and about America, it isn't particularly happy or patriotic, though on the latter a case could be made for it being the most patriotic film in years. Maybe this movie is Goldthwait exercising some Old Testament judgment on his motherland, chastening those he loves and looking for a return to decency in society. Or maybe God Bless America is just a sophomoric exercise in griping over matters of taste. That's going to be up to the individual, ultimately. But if you can stomach the guns, guts, and gore, I guarantee you'll finish it thinking more than when you began.