The Death of Dick Long consists of Dick (Daniel Scheinert), Zeke ((Michael Abbott Jr.) and Earl (Andre Hyland) – three Alabama boys who are members of the band, Pink Freud.
One night after band practice, they get up to some mischief… Or in the words of Dick doing something ‘weird’.
We subsequently witness a late-night montage of shot-gunning beers, blasting cans with shotguns and launching fireworks from between their legs.
This is followed by a hard cut to a few hours later when Dick has been killed.
The authorities have not identified the body, but Zeke’s wife and his daughter get increasingly suspicious.
Scheinert’s directorial aims to expertly balance the hilarity and heartache of what happens when dark secrets are dragged… Kicking and screaming into the light.
Expect the Unexpected
The film does not waste time and cuts straight to the chase. It is interesting how the film commences with the idea of doing something ‘weird’ and concludes with that.
We feel as though the movie will proceed in a formulaic cat and mouse chase between the two men and the cops, but it doesn’t.
This is because we soon find out that the reason for Long’s death is much more bizarre and grimmer than what we expected. So be prepared to be shocked.
The director maintains a neat balance serious and humour.
As such, camera shots like the crow on the cross signals a foreboding message, almost like an ambiguous witness to the death.
As a director, he knows so well how to bring about the raw emotions of the characters. The writing of the characters is interesting.
The scene where Zeke finds out that Dick is dead, the close-up shot with the fast spinning sound of the washing machine exhibits how the guilt and fear are building up in him.
Earl referencing pulp fiction whilst trying to get rid of the evidence, the main cop being an elderly drunk lady, but yet sharp, it is incredible how Scheinert and writer Billy Chew envisioned this.
Daniel Scheinert’s Work as a Director
Never have we ever seen two such dorky and idiotic characters like Zeke and Earl. Moments, where Zeke stutters when questioned by the cops, are hilarious, yet cinematically brilliant.
In fact, as the film progresses, it feels like a noose tightens the necks of the viewers.
Even when the truth is revealed, violin-style romantic music plays in the background. This unlikely style of background score works very effectively
The movie adapts a style which is reminiscent of works by Cohen brothers, Pedro Almodovar and Vishal Bhardwaj. It is zany, dark and mildly humorous at the same time.
The Indie setting of Alabama works effectively. The suburban feel to the town adds a sense of mystery to the whole crime aspect.
A special mention to the climax scene where the truth is revealed. The rising tension is maintained so well, due to Scheinert’s work as a director.
All these aspects are topped up by the performances.
Michael Abbott Jr. is superb as Zeke. From his body language, dialogue delivery and expressions, everything is consistent with the quirky character.
Speaking of quirky, Andre Hyland is hilarious. His reckless and off-beat attitude just makes us facepalm at how dimwitted the character is. Hyland is first-rate in his performance.
But it is not just the male actors who impress. The female actors also do justice to their characters.
To begin with, Janelle Cochrane is excellent as Sheriff Spenser, an alcoholic elderly woman who yet pays sharp attention to details.
Such characters break the glass ceilings, especially those of cop roles.
Virginia Newcomb is impactful as Zeke’s wife. Her ability to change expressions and body language frequently are very impressive.
Also, it’s great to see Sunita Mani in the film. Her flirtatious and curious would’ve originally been played by a white actor. Yet the role itself has nothing to do with skin colour.
But it is satisfying to see more cultural representation even in American indie black comedies.
What could be Improved?
Dick Long is generally enriched with cinematic excellence but the film itself requires patience.
The slow-burner pace requires the audience to sit tight and be glued until the end when all is revealed.
Plus, it does not help that the build-up drags, especially during the second-half.
As such, the revelation itself is bizarre, to say the least. It will make the viewer raise their eyebrows and say “WTF… Is this is how Dick really died?”
However, this disclosure just proves how messed up humans can be and perhaps this is a reason why the movie stands out from the rest.
Overall, The Death of Dick Long is not for the faint-hearted. Not because of the gore, violence or profanities just due to the sheer bizarre nature of the film.
It takes an open-minded, curious and creative individual to digest it. Not many will be able to accept or understand the film, which could act as a limitation.
But one cannot deny that it is a well-crafted film and therefore, perfect for the Sundance Film Festival in London.
.5 (3.5/5 stars)