American Carnage (2022) – Film Review
Directed by Diego Hallivis.
With Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Jenna Ortega, Allen Maldonado, Bella Ortiz, Jorge Diaz, Yumarie Morales, Catherine McCafferty, Brett Cullen, Andrew Kaempfer, Paloma Bloyd and Eric Dane.
After a governor issues an executive order to arrest children of undocumented immigrants, newly detained youths are offered the chance to have their charges dropped by volunteering to provide elder care.
Everything on American Carnage is in bad taste. Co-writer/director Diego Hallivis (writing the screenplay alongside Julio Hallivis) begins the film with an admittedly intriguing montage cynically portraying American values (and rightly so) that ends with a teardrop on right-wing mainstream media. , painting alarmist immigrants (undocumented or not) as villains, while proclaiming that our country thrives on such antagonists. Peppered contains footage of celebrities, movies, and political speeches (there is archival footage of the crusty orange former president of Cheeto himself), suggesting that some stylistic thinking has gone into this rant. It also defines American Carnage to be a politically charged drama.
This tone continues as we are introduced to JP (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), a teenage night shift worker at a fast food chain who regularly faces confrontational racism from the mouths of authoritative and demanding white customers. His sister Lily (Yumaire Morales) has also just learned that she has been accepted into the university of her dreams. The siblings have opposing ideas of how to succeed in America and one day be their mother’s providers, but otherwise they are close and supportive of each other.
At a family reunion celebrating the news, ICE storms the house, separating and detaining the family. Of course, this is a very real situation that unfortunately happens often, but American Carnage uses all these broken systemic functions and racism and something that happens to real families, just to set up a goofy horror show where a group of detained undocumented immigrants voluntarily join an elderly care program that , when completed, will supposedly see them reunited with their loved ones. JP is grouped with many obnoxious personalities who are too comedic and goofy to fit into the political subtext. American Carnage tries to reach (there are some cringe metaphors here).
The supporting cast includes Jenna Ortega (who seems to be in a movie every month so far this year, which I’m not going to complain about although I wish she had better material here), Allen Maldonado , Jorge Diaz and Bella Ortiz. Most of them portray characters who are disgusted with virtually anything that involves helping the elderly. On the other hand, JP and Micah (Bella Ortiz) want to do the right thing and bring some comfort to the elderly, even if it means getting their hands dirty. Of course, they also develop feelings for each other (including a hilariously awkward transition into an equally awkward pre-sex scene). However, there is also something wrong with these elderly people, who are prone to zombie behavior (trying to bite faculty members).
Some credit goes to the production designers, who make this installation look both inviting and eerie. However, the plot turns out that American Carnage the takes are nonsensical and only further betray the statement the script is trying to make. They also demand that the makeup department do things that they just don’t have the budget or skill set for, which means the last 30 minutes are fun but not in the way they intended.
It’s almost amazing how American Carnage continually gets dumber and less socially and politically engaging, even though those themes are foundational to every goofy twist. Even on paper, the movie is just a terrible idea.
Scintillating Myth Rating – Movie: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the editor of Flickering Myth Reviews. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]