Hick is an ugly piece work. The worst kind of bad. It’s a movie that believes it has something to say, but has nothing – a nothingess that comes after 90 minutes of misery. It’s a vapid mess about a girl who, despite encountering nothing but terrible acts, earns zero sympathy.
That girl, Luli (Chloë Moretz), a 13-year-old kid from Nebraska, sets out to Vegas after being abandoned by her loony mother and drunk of a father. Her road trip goes the typical route: violence, rape, drug use, and robbery, everything you’d expect from a 13-year-old’s trip with a wasted Blake Lively. She comes from a world where a gun is a nice birthday gift for a kid, where 13-year-olds awkwardly quote Sunset Boulevard, and where Eddie Redmayne is forced to play a poor man’s take on Kit from Badlands, all these phony details are used to establish we’re in a dark and heightened world.
Or is this intended as our reality? Director Derick Martini can’t answer that, never coming up with the right tone.
This is a movie which features an argument over how to mix a 7 and 7, with the great Ray McKinnon having the dishonor of conducting all the yelling on the matter. What narrative or character purpose does this scene serve? Don’t ask, because it’s difficult to answer. McKinnon’s character isn’t of importance and – this may come as a shocker – neither is the right way of mixing a 7 and 7. This scene, amongst many others, is a typical example of moments where the only response is to raise an eyebrow and wonder what the hell anyone was thinking.
When it comes to the child actor, there was a skeeviness to how Tim Burton framed Moretz in Dark Shadows, with every glare and move she gave. The way director Martini (Lymelife) shoots Moretz is far more egregious, clearly dipping into exploitation territory. In the outset, Martini shows Luli in her underwear wielding a gun, and it’s uncomfortable. It’s clearly meant to be awkward: a teen girl beginning to wonder about her body and sex, but how Martini goes about conveying this takes it too far. The whole film is that way – every single detail lacking restraint, as well as the right punctures needed.
There’s zero control over the extremist nature of the picture. Even in what should be the most severe moments, the consequences (physical and emotional) don’t shine through. There is no impact, and the film quickly moves back to its flimsy narrative with a shrug. Unfortunately, Luli isn’t the only character shown with zero empathy; Martini displays hatred for the entire ensemble. Perhaps it’s because they are all painted in such loud, broad strokes.
The characters get tortured but without any meaning to back it up. The only actor allowed to provide an ounce of realism is Alec Baldwin, who gave one of his best (and most overlooked) performances in Lymelife. However, his presence is what you could call a cheap trick, basically Martini saying, “Not everyone in this world is terrible, so there’s hope for this girl!” The same goes for Rory Culkin‘s brief appearance.
Hopefully Hick is the only misstep we’ll see from Martini. He’s a promising talent, but most of that potential he displayed in Lymelife is completely unrecognizable here. The only reason the film isn’t a complete abomination is Baldwin.
It’s admirable to make a film showing people at their ugliest, but Hick never knows what to say about these damaged characters or settings, never portraying or saying anything at all.
The Upside: Alec Baldwin.
The Downside: Martini is capable of better.
On the Side: Colin Farrell couldn’t appear in the film due to scheduling conflicts. To take a guess, he probably would have played Eddie Redmayne’s character.