Cuck

 

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A modern film noir that just happens to play out in a very special setting.

 
Cuck

Sally Kirkland

 

Rob Lambert's previous work has been in short films and documentaries and as the director of Cuck he shows an assurance that is impressive given that this is a feature film with actors. However, he is also, along with Joe Varkle, the writer here and in that department his judgment is less astute. Even so, Cuck is an interesting work that takes an unblinking, unsentimental look at America today honing in on a society that has seen far too many acts of violence by disturbed individuals who feel resentful of society and seek sources they can blame in order to explain away their own inbred failures.

 

At its best, Cuck is a portrait of one such man, Ronnie Palicki played by Zachary Ray Sherman, a 28-year-old living with his religious mother (Sally Kirkland) who relies on his care. His hopes of joining the military to follow in his late father's footsteps come to nothing when he is turned down on account of mental instability and he is sexually frustrated too, a regular masturbator who uses porn and who turns abusive if any woman he approaches fails to respond positively. Since he sees all women as chicks and is unprepossessingly fat himself, rejections are all too understandable. When he comes across the website of a white supremacist by the name of Chance Dalmain (Travis Hammer), a man who despises liberals and dismisses them by using the slang term 'cucks', Ronnie feels that he has found his hero, someone whose followers share a dislike of immigrants, blacks and all those who want to curb what it once meant to be a real man.

 

Ronnie is not a new figure in American cinema but he is sadly a credible one and in this film, despite echoes of Travis Bickle in 1976's Taxi Driver, he specifically represents those of the far right who describe themselves as patriots and put their own gloss on Trump's ideas as to what is necessary to make America great again. The path that leads Ronnie to buy a gun and ultimately to revenge himself on those of whom he disapproves (with a few luckless bystanders thrown in) is persuasively charted - and it's done without any of the glamorisation or failure to condemn for which some criticised the recent divisive Joker. But - and it is a big but unfortunately - Lambert and Varkle seek to add a further factor to the causes that bring Ronnie to a crisis point. They choose to involve him with a neighbour (Monique Parent) and her husband (Thomas V. Murphy) who hire him to join them in sex sessions which will, as it turns out, subsequently be widely viewed on video. It seems a mite unlikely that they should involve him at all but, given his wish to be seen as an alpha male, it is utterly unbelievable that he should accept the role that they give him to play in this setup as a poorly endowed husband humiliated by a rival. For that matter we are asked to accept that he could persuade himself that the wife actually loves him! Ronnie's realisation that he has been used and that the woman has never cared for him in the slightest contributes to his final showdown, but this carries little conviction and also leads to scenes in which Cuck itself seems to overindulge pornographic imagery. The fact is that the portrait of Ronnie feels complete without this element. Heading a competent cast, there is no doubt that Sherman faces up honestly to the sheer evil of Ronnie and if only the subplot of his involvement with the neighbours had been jettisoned Cuck would have played as a powerful reflection of some of the worst aspects of life in America today.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Zachary Ray Sherman, Sally Kirkland, Timothy V Murphy, Monique Parent, Travis Hammer, David Diaan, Hugo Armstrong.

 

Dir Rob Lambert, Pro Rob Lambert and Joe Varkle, Screenplay Rob Lambert and Joe Varkle, Ph Nick Matthews, Pro Des Prerna Chawla, Ed Mac Nelsen, Music Room8, Nicholas Johns and Ezra Reich, Costumes Mikael Sharafyan.

 

Rimrock Pictures-Jonny Tull.
115 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 20 April 2020. Cert. 18.