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SUNDANCE REVIEW — “The Death Of Dick Long”

Title of the year ladies and gentlemen.

The Death of Dick Long is directed by Daniel Scheinert, written by Billy Chew and stars Michael Abbott Jr., Virginia Newcomb, Andre Hyland, Sarah Baker, Jess Weixler, Poppy Cunningham, and Roy Wood Jr. It tells the story of Dick Long, who died last night, and Zeke and Earl don’t want anybody finding out how. That’s too bad though, cause news travels fast in small-town Alabama. Now, this is directed by one half of the Daniels, the team behind one of my favorite movies, Swiss Army Man, and that coupled with the title alone had me very much looking forward to this one. So, how did it turn out? Pretty great. The Death of Dick Long is an incredibly hilarious, absurd, yet grounded comedy that subverted my every expectation. This film genuinely surprised me, and this is one you’ll either love or you’ll hate.

Daniel Scheinert is a director I greatly admire, so I was very excited to see how his first solo effort as a director went and he does a great job. I was surprised to see how restrained and almost non-stylized this was, especially compared to Swiss Army Man. I’m actually impressed with just how different this was from his previous effort. This film is definitely absurd, but he takes a very serious approach to it, and never really plays anything up. Without spoiling anything, the film is really built around this incredibly absurd and frankly ludicrous thing and instead of playing into it, he instead approaches it honestly and finds the humor there. As far as the script by Billy Chew goes, it’s very funny. He has a very sharp sense of humor that worked with Scheinert’s direction. This movie has a very cool pitch and the first half feels also like neo-noir till it completely goes off the deep end. This film has a very clever sense of humor and is reminiscent of something Shane Black would write. While this doesn’t reach the heights of Swiss Army Man, it’s still a damn good movie.

The cast here all do a great job, delivering surprisingly nuanced and genuine performances. It would be very easy to play these characters as trashy dumb rednecks, but our leads commit to more than that, delivering flesh out characters. That’s not to say these characters are smart, they’re very dumb and we get to see some hilarious situations because of it. Andre Hyland does a particularly great job here. I would have loved to see more of his character and I can’t wait to see where he goes as an actor. Roy Wood Jr. also does a great job and has some 0f the best lines in the film. Michael Abbott Jr. does a fine job as our lead and is probably given the most difficult role in the film, but I think it paid off greatly for him. All in all, this is clearly a film everyone working on it cared about and everyone did a great job.

On a technical level, The Death of Dick Long leaves a bit to be desired. I don’t want to keep comparing this to Swiss Army Man but stylistically they’re completely different. Aside from a few sequences, this is shot fairly basically and all the cinematography is very flat. The score is fine, but never really jumped out to me. The editing is actually very good, and we’re treated to some great visual gags and the cut to credits is also very funny. While I was let down stylistically by this film, it does feature one of the best scenes of the year. It’s a scene that will make or break the film for you, but it’s incredibly well executed and had me rolling with laughter.

In short, The Death of Dick Long is a very unique comedy featuring some great acting and a truly absurd premise. 4/5

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