The Death Of Dick Long transports us to the swampy south for the most bizarre of stories and finds something truly sublime there. It’s almost a magic trick. Take the subject matter of your average Danny McBride comedy, stage it like a straight drama, and ta-da! It’s actually ten times funnier this way. It’s a bold concept executed perfectly.
Michael Abbott Jr. and Andre Hyland play Zeke and Earl, respectively, two good ol’ boy blue-collar types who shotgun beers, vape on outdoor couches, and jam out to Staind and Puddle of Mudd in their terrible three-piece cover band.
One night after band practice, there’s a time jump and we’re not exactly sure what happened, only that the third member of Zeke and Earl’s trio, Dick, is bleeding out in the backseat of Zeke’s car. They drop him off on the steps of the hospital where… well, you can read the title. The rest of the movie consists largely of Zeke and Earl’s increasingly delirious attempts to cover up the crime.
Or at least… what we assume is a crime. What actually happened out there, anyway?
The Death Of Dick Long is one of those movies that the less you know about it going in, the better. It offers us tantalizing clues along the way, cutting between a rogue’s gallery of interconnected, similarly perfectly cast characters — like the puzzled emergency room doctor played by Roy Wood Jr., the hard-drinking local sheriff with her leg in a boot and her booze in a sippy cup (Janelle Cochrane), her fresh-faced rookie deputy (Sarah Baker) whose girlfriend is making her a quiche to celebrate her first murder case, Zeke and Dick’s horrified wives (Virginia Newcomb and Jess Weixler), and Earl’s casually sexy, preternaturally chill neighbor (Sunita Mani from Glow).
The Death Of Dick Long takes the kinds of characters who normally show up in films solely to be mocked, ridiculed, literally referred to as “trash” — guys who listen to Nickelback unironically, say — and breathes humanity into them. That empathy not only doesn’t kill the joke, it deepens it. Suddenly those laughs aren’t a deflection of those weirdos and rubes, but an admission of kinship. People who [SPOILERS REDACTED] are just like us!
Director Daniel Scheinert (half of the writer/director duo behind Swiss Army Man) and writer Billy Chew have taken a high concept and turned it into a perfect tragicomic slice of American life; it feels almost like what you’d get if Alexander Payne had grown up in Alabama.
When Dick Long finally reveals The Big Secret, it’s somehow both high drama and high comedy, a perfectly-written, entirely-true-to-character one-line bombshell delivered by Zeke that had me both howling with laughter and wishing I could give him hug.