Rick (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

COMPLETE SPOILERS (although it doesn't matter, because everything is spoiled once you realize that it is a modern version of Rigoletto)

Rick O'Lette is the ultimate corporate lackey. 40ish and going nowhere, he hangs on to his vice-presidency only because he has the ability to make his boss laugh. Sour, nasty, snide, racist, and funny, the barely post-adolescent behavior of Rick is the perfect entertainment for his 20-something but still adolescent genius of a boss, the decadent Mr. Duke. Rick is his court jester. Together they abuse waitresses, job applicants, minorities, women, and the downtrodden. The boss is not only a satyr but also totally lacking in discretion when he discusses his sexual adventures, and pays no heed to which ears may hear those discussions. He walks around the office singing an obscene hip-hop song with words like "I wanna put it in yo mouth".

Rick is trapped into a life where the only way he can keep his job is by being an asshole, so he is, and he has only the dimmest memories of when he was a good person. In fact, he is such a monstrous ass that one job applicant even places a curse on him! A curse, for Chrissakes! (And it's not even Anne Bancroft playing her usual old gypsy hag!)

The only thing that keeps Rick in touch with humanity is his beautiful young daughter, who also treasures their relationship. The daughter would like to get to know what Rick does at work, but Rick won't let that happen for two good reasons: (1) His entire job consists of acting like an asshole to amuse his young boss. This is not something he wants his daughter to see. (2) He knows that his boss will hit on the beautiful daughter instantly, thus placing Rick in an impossible situation.

Little does Rick know that his daughter and his boss are already hooked up. Of course, Rick couldn't possibly know that because the boss and the daughter don't even know. They have connected for online chat sex. Gradually, the boss realizes who he is having cybersex with. The daughter never does figure it out, but she wants an internship with her father's company, and she figures that the fastest way to get what she wants is to flirt with the horny, cute boss, not knowing that he is already her cybersex partner, and that he has already penetrated her online anonymity.

So far, the plot is reasonably normal. Mean-spirited, but normal. But there is a truly abnormal twist about to happen. Rick is contacted by a former college friend who is now in a unique business. People hire him to kill those higher in the corporate pyramid, thus opening up promotion opportunities. The contract killer has specifically targeted Rick as a customer, and Rick doesn't need much persuasion to cement a deal to kill his boss at the Christmas party.

The thug who does the actual killing is told to kill the guy wearing the mountain climbing outfit and the Santa hat. I suppose I don't have to tell you that the evil boss hooks up with Rick's daughter at the Christmas party, and she ends up leaving the building wearing the mountain climbing apparel and the Santa hat, and ...

Well, you can see where this is going.

Rick gets a call saying that the murder has been done. He runs into the hall, where he hears his boss singing "I want to put it in yo mouth", obviously still very much alive. Rick then realizes that he has not only failed to protect his daughter from his boss's lechery, but he has also gotten her killed, and has thus destroyed the last remaining bit of his own humanity.

Thus is the curse fulfilled.

The film is filled with dark, sharp, geometric images. It is punctuated with bizarre renditions of Christmas Carols. Except for the nasty hip-hop song, the entire musical score consists of carol after traditional carol played in a minor key at a funereal tempo. Pretty Christmassy story, eh? It should easily replace It's A Wonderful Life" in the annual traditions of many families. Like the Manson Family, for example.


None. Agnes Bruckner does appear once in a t-shirt without a bra.

Did you have the feeling that the plot is somewhat over the top, somewhat "operatic" perhaps. The actual opera buffs among you have even noticed that this is the actual plot of one of the most famous operas of all, Verdi's Rigoletto. His name is Rick O'Lette, get it? The Duke becomes Mr. Duke. You don't really have to know anything about Verdi's opera to appreciate this film, however. It stands on its own.

I found the film to be a pleasant surprise. I normally hate mean-spirited films like Very Bad Things and Bad Santa, and this film is just as nasty as those two. I normally don't relate that well to grand tragedy which takes place in modern times, or to very black humor. Usually, films that possess those characteristics are completely lacking in basic human warmth, and must be extremely brilliant to work for me. This film is not extremely brilliant like Dr. Strangelove, and yet it manages to work anyway because it does not always maintain a distance between the audience and the characters. It mixes up the dark, cold humor with some genuine warmth. Yes, the film is too aloof and completely obnoxious in the first act, and I was just about to turn it off and move on to another project, but then Rick went home, and the film started to click. It really gets into high gear once the relationship between Rick and his daughter is established, because the audience is allowed to see how Rick became such an ass in the first place, and how he is as much victim as victimizer. The father-daughter relationship is developed thoroughly enough that we can really feel Rick's pain when he realizes what he has done.

I expected Bill Pullman to be good as the corporate wise guy, and he was, but I didn't expect the depth and nuance he was able to bring to the role when he was called upon to be a normal father, and ultimately the murderer of his own child.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic.

  • five "making of" featurettes

  • two trailers

  • photogallery

  • extensive production notes in .pdf format

Is it a pleasant film to watch? Roger Ebert dealt with that question:

Movies like this are kind of a test for a viewer. If you require that you "like" a movie, then "Rick" is not for you, because there is nothing likable about it. It's rotten to the core and right down to the end. But if you find that such extremes can be fascinating, then the movie may cheer you, not because it is happy, but because it goes for broke.

It's definitely something different. After hating the first twenty minutes, I ended up being quite impressed.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • Basically straight-to-vid. It played one theater, grossing $11,000
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. Cult film. People love it or hate it. Modern interpretation of Rigoletto. Cold, mean-spirited black comedy mixed with classical tragedy, and yet with an underlying humanity that makes it work, in large part because of a surprisingly complex portrayal from Bill Pullman.

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