If you’ve seen anything by director duo Daniels—Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert—then you know The Death of Dick Long is going to be a little weird.
Their take on DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What,” in which various people find their sexy parts supernaturally gyrating as they fall through building floors, is one of the more memorable music videos ever made. Their surreal short film “Interesting Ball” is 12 minutes of indescribable what-the-fuckery. And their first feature, Swiss Army Man, opens with Paul Dano riding a farting corpse (played by Daniel Radcliffe) like a Jet Ski, which pretty much speaks for itself.
Compared to all that, The Death of Dick Long is actually pretty tame. But it’s still plenty odd thanks to its big reveal. There’s a line of thought that goes, “Saying there’s a twist is a spoiler,” which I agree with—but this isn’t some M. Night Shyamalan inversion. It’s not even a twist so much as a shocker. Trying to figure things out is half the fun here, and Sherlock Holmes at the height of his coke mania couldn’t solve this case off a spoiler tag alone.
Directed by a solo Scheinert, the movie is a kind of dumbass mystery-slash-black comedy, with a couple good ol’ boys named Zeke and Earl (Michael Abbott Jr. and Andre Hyland) bringing Fargo-esque ineptitude to rural Alabama. After a night of drinking heavily, smoking weed, shooting fireworks, and doing god knows what else, Zeke and Earl drop their injured buddy Dick (Scheinert) in front of an emergency room and scram. We won’t learn exactly what happened until about halfway through the movie, but one thing is immediately clear: Dick is dead.
Scheinert isn’t quite at Coen status yet, but the way he builds to the cause of death shows that his directing chops go beyond goofball antics. Replace the act in question with a more mundane revelation and The Death of Dick Long would still be a funny, suspenseful story. What’s more, it would still be a strangely affecting portrait of a guy trying to come to terms with his life and himself.
That makes Zeke’s ultimate confession all the more disarming. “Is this real life?” asks his wife (Virginia Newcomb). And though we the viewer know it’s not, we’ve bought into the narrative enough at this point to truly feel her bafflement. Ears perk up as the brain reevaluates everything you’ve seen to this point. Surely that can’t be what really happened, you think; I must have heard that wrong. And yet....
With all that in mind, and without giving away too much, it’s safe to say The Death of Dick Long will be divisive. If you’re a fan of typical thrillers or murder mysteries, chances are you’re going to leave the theater wondering what the hell you just watched. However, if you dig absurdist humor and can get behind the genre blend, this movie delivers a unique watch. If nothing else, The Death of Dick Long will be a memorable experience for both parties.
The Death of Dick Long
Director: Daniel Scheinert
Starring: Michael Abbott Jr., Virginia Newcomb, Andre Hyland.
Theater: Area theaters, now playing