The Death of Dick Long Review: A basket of deplorables

THE DEATH OF DICK LONG
A24
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Daniel Scheinert
Screenwriter: Billy Chew
Cast: Michael Abbott Jr., Virginia Newcomb, Andre Hyland, Sarah Baker, Jess Weixler
Screened at: Technicolor, NYC, 9/3/19
Opens: September 27, 2019

“The Death of Dick Long” was filmed on location in Alabama but you’ve got to wonder whether the production team needed to smuggle copies of the film out in the middle of the night. The characters on the screen may be the kind that Hillary once called “a basket of deplorables,” and yep, they are indeed dumb enough to vote for Trump. And to vote for him again in 2020. That may be why they make for the amusement of people in the movie audience who like to see people below themselves in intelligence. You’re not surprised to find that director Daniel Scheinert co-helmed “Swiss Army Man” about a fellow stranded on a desert who befriends a dead body, making a surreal journey to get home. “The Death of Dick Long” likewise involves a dead body, a man who thought he had two friends, but they dumped him, bloody and unconscious, on the street. They never heard that friends don’t let friends dump them at the door of a hospital and run away.

Billy Chew’s script finds Zeke Olsen (Michael Abbott Jr.), Earl Wyeth (Andre Hyland) and Dick Long (played by the director) practicing classical rock in Zeke’s garage. Nothing far out there. But when high as kites they cross to a barn, they do so not to continue practicing. What they now seek is something a lot weirder. We’re kept wondering what could they possibly be doing that’s more exciting to them than their music. All is revealed in a conclusion that knocks the lid off even what some of us think that people in the Alabama of broken-down shacks and trailers are up to.

All the events take place in a single day, one that they will remember for the rest of their lives—provided that they don’t go ahead to do stuff that would get them into more of a panic. Zeke and Earl do not have criminal minds, but they are akin to the types of petty culprits with arrest records as long as the arm of the law. These are people who do not have enough equipment upstairs to get away with a single misdemeanor. The main problem facing them is that clothing and blood are soaking everything around them. They cannot remove the blood in their car so they sink the entire thing—except that the vehicle refuses to sink. Detergents have little effect on clothing, so they throw the clothes away in the woods right by where they live. While Dick’s wife Jane (Jess Weixler) wonders where her husband is, she is sure that he is having an affair—which in a way he is. Instead of burning Dick’s wallet, Zeke hands it over to Sheriff Dudley (Sarah Baker), who is excited that her boss, Sheriff Spenser (Janelle Cochrane) is assigning the case of her for apparently the first time. You wonder how these two female officers—one of them bringing to mind the indelible character of Marge Gunderson from the Coen brothers’ 1996 movie “Fargo—could be trusted to give a parking ticket to a vehicle left out on the road.

If the case is to be solved, the hero would be Zeke’s small daughter Cynthia Olsen (Poppy Cunningham) whose loose tongue arouses the suspicions of Zeke’s wife Lydia (Virginia Newcomb) and the sheriffs. Whether the movie humanizes the backwater folks or allows us to feel some compassion for their limitations depends on how you see them. At the very least, “The Death of Dick Long”—the title with an obvious double-entendre—is an indie-ish treat for the right audience. Or a downright irritating story that will make you pine for the loss of shows like “I Love Lucy.”

100 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B

Harvey Karten: Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.