[Review] 'The Death of Dick Long': A Disappointing and Bizarre Comedy-Thriller
A24 is known for its willingness to take on unique projects; they are, without a doubt, the most diverse film distributor. So when Daniel Schinert (a director known for his unique style) teams up with A24's boldness, the final product is bound to be distinct or at the very least, a wild theatre experience. And even though The Death of Dick Long never lives up to its potential, it's without a doubt a peculiar film, and more importantly, its a trip to the cinema worth taking.
The story of THE DEATH OF DICK LONG is as simple as it gets: Dick, a member of a band with our two main characters Zeke and Earl, dies, and Zeke and Earl want to cover it up, but things hit the fan quick. There are no underlying themes that are being pushed, just weirdness all the way through. I applaud Schinert for turning this simple premise (which has been done countless times) into something unexpected and subversive. But there's only so much you can do with two morons running around town - in all honesty, the film overstays its welcome. The runtime often feels bloated, with entire sequences being wholly unnecessary and others being the cinematic equivalent to melatonin. One hundred minutes isn't a long movie by any means, but for The Death of Dick Long, it certainly feels like it is.
Schinert tries his best to make the film compelling, but his inexperience behind the camera is glaring, never understanding what kind of movie he wants to make. He combines the genres and themes of a comedy, a tragedy, and a thriller all into one, but never knows how to satisfyingly combine these genres sublimely. However, when Schinert decides to focus on making a thriller solely, he surprisingly succeeds well (especially during the film's third act). The more that gets revealed about the untimely death of Dick, the more the film increases with tense conflict. This all leads up to one of the weirdest and craziest reveals of the year. It doesn't matter how smart you are - you will not see it coming. And the way that Schinert crafts this tension is superb and at times nail-biting. Thrillers are the kind of movies he should be making.
But what is the most disappointing thing about The Death of Dick Long is the screenplay. This is Billy Chew's first crack at writing a script and it shows, and unfortunately, it shows a lot. Schinert could have balanced the tones better, but when considering the writing he helmed, it's not as hard to forgive him. The script is not atrocious by any means, but it is certainly not marvelous; at best, it's a subpar screenplay that has extreme tonal problems and inept character exchanges.
With a film this bizarre and insane, there should be plenty laugh out loud moments, but there's barely any. In fact, besides Earl (played phenomenally by Andre Hyland), nobody is remotely funny or as such compelling. In this sense, it feels like Billy Chew doesn't know what makes humans interesting. Dialogue is head-scratching, jokes don't land, in the most awkward way possible, and certain side characters are beyond annoying.
Now, after seemingly completely trashing on the film, I'm still going to recommend it. THE DEATH OF DICK LONG is one of those films you have to see to believe; there's no way anybody will assume what this film is about until they watch it for themselves. Although it's nowhere near as funny or engaging as it could have been, it still excels at being a good mystery thriller. And if thrillers aren't your cup of tea, still watch it, so you'll be able to tell your friends and family about the insane film you just watched. It's a film that's bound to start some weird conversations.