Random Acts of Violence

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Random Acts of Violence Movie Poster Image
Gory, meta slasher movie doesn't go deep enough.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 85 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Proposes to examine themes of how violence in art and violence in real-life relate to each other, but doesn't go very far; it essentially follows a straight line. ("Art imitates life, which imitates art, which ... ") But perhaps viewers can continue this discussion and add to it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

One character shows empathy with her attempt to record the story of a killer's victims, but her efforts are marginalized by a story that focuses on gore and killing.

Violence

Extreme slasher-style blood and gore. Bloody, gory animated credits sequence. Dead dog tangled in barbed-wire fence. Three dead teens are briefly shown: naked, bloody, posed together in a gory scene. Many dead bodies. Severed head. Headless body, with entrails shown. Character stabbed by branch. Masked killer shoots people, stabbing teens many times, and strangling someone. Adult cleaved by child. Killer head-butts a character. Guns and shooting. Small-scale model of murder scene, with bloody female victims. Images of gory comics. Victims bound. Character picks at his thumb with a pin.

Sex

Naked (bloody) women briefly seen in a comic book.

Language

Fairly frequent uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus exclamatory use of "Jesus Christ."

Consumerism

Mention of Pokémon.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens smoke pot. Cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Random Acts of Violence, which was directed by co-star Jay Baruchel, is a meta slasher movie based on a 2010 comic book. Violence is extreme and very gory; there are several killings with knives, guns, and a cleaver, and via strangulation. Expect to see dead bodies, severed heads, headless bodies, entrails, and much more. There's brief female nudity in comic book drawings (victims covered with blood). Language is fairly frequent and includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). Teens smoke pot, and a cigarette is shown. The movie's message about art imitating life falls rather flat.

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What's the story?

In RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE, comic book creator Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams) and publisher Ezra (Jay Baruchel) have had a huge success with their R-rated indie title Slasherman, which was based on a real-life case. To promote what will be the book's final issue, Todd and Ezra take a road trip, along with Todd's girlfriend, Kathy (Jordana Brewster), and assistant, Aurora (Niamh Wilson). They pass through the real killer's original small-town territory. Kathy hopes to do a book about the killer's victims, while Todd searches in vain for the proper ending for his tale. Unfortunately, a rash of new killings starts, and the crime scenes scarily resemble scenes from Todd's comics.

Is it any good?

Jay Baruchel's adaptation of a 2010 comic delivers lots of gore and a few relatable characters. But its main theme, a meta meditation on violence in media and in real life, remains curiously superficial. As Random Acts of Violence begins with an intriguing look at Todd and Kathy's relationship, it looks as if it's going to have a certain dedication to character development. Certainly the movie's characters -- including Ezra and Aurora -- are fun and/or likable, but it's not long before they sputter and stall. Todd's writer's block, for example, isn't the most dynamic or visual thing, and Ezra is little more than a pest, forever badgering Todd to finish his book.

Moreover, the disconnect between Kathy's empathetic book about the victims and Todd's exploitative comic about the killer should have driven more of a dramatic wedge into the story and characters. But Random Acts of Violence never goes very deep. When the killings start, they all involve new characters who were introduced moments earlier, so there's no emotional connection for viewers. Finally, the commentary on violence just runs around in circles with a life-imitates-art-imitates-life motion without ever landing on an idea. Certainly gore hounds will squeal to the movie's creative killings, but Random Acts of Violence promises, and could have been, much more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Random Acts of Violence's violence. How shocking is it? How did it affect you? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? Or is it some combination? How, and why?

  • Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of horror movies?

  • What's the difference between Kathy, who wants to write about the victims, and Todd, who exploits the violence for his comic book? Why do you think the comic book is so successful?

  • How is the movie different from the comic book it's based on?

Movie details

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