Very Bad Things

Actor Peter Berg, who plays the hard-ass Dr. Kronk on TV's Chicago Hope, stays behind the camera as the writer and director of Very Bad Things, a twisted comedy of murderous rage with a body count that won't quit. Hardly anyone in the cast — headed by Cameron Diaz and Christian Slater — is left standing by the time the end credits roll. Very unusual for a domestic farce about four L.A. white guys who head to Vegas to throw a bachelor party for pal Kyle (Jon Favreau) before his controlling bride-to-be, Laura (Diaz), makes him swear off booze, drugs and hotel whores forever.

Slater plays Robert, the know-it-all buddy in real estate, who averts a crisis in the boys' Vegas suite when Michael (the excellent Jeremy Piven) chases an Asian hooker (Carla Scott) around the bathroom with his hard-on. Technically, Michael is within his rights — except that the hooker bashes her head on a towel hook and bleeds to death. Scared Adam (Daniel Stern) and shy Charles (Leland Orser) panic. But Robert coolly skewers a nosy hotel security guard with a corkscrew and devises a plan for the boys to cut up both bodies and bury the bloody pieces in the desert.

You get the picture. That's the trouble. Berg is so in love with his escalating shock tactics that they quickly cease to shock. This is Berg's debut outing as a director, but other first-timers, namely Joel Coen (Blood Simple) and Danny Boyle (Shallow Grave), had it all over him for blending horror and hilarity. It's the actors who pull up the slack. Nobody does sleek, smirking menace like Slater. And Diaz is a firecracker. The sweetie from There's Something About Mary is hell on high heels as she battles to save her non-refundable wedding. But Berg seems to fear and loathe female rage even more than the male variety. At the premiere of Very Bad Things, he goaded the audience: "If this movie hits you, hit it back." After two hours of the film's crude, intemperate bile, Berg just may get his wish.

From The Archives Issue 801: December 10, 1998
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