Review: ‘God Is A Bullet’

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maika Monroe, & Jamie Foxx Lead Nick Cassavetes' Raw, Unnerving Cult Revenge Flick

Prepare yourself. God is a Bullet is raw, unsparing, brutal in its depiction of violence in a depraved, soulless world. We shouldn’t be surprised the film is so unnerving. It comes to us from Nick Cassavetes, who despite giving us the ultimate depiciton of romance idealized in The Notebook, has been better at showing the world’s ugly side in films such as Alpha Dog and John Q. But those films can’t come close to this grisly, misogynistic tale of vengeance so filthy it’ll make you want to take a shower afterwards. You’ll feel gross for enjoying it so much.

Remember those brief spells in Game of Thrones when Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Jamie Lannister would feign being a good and just person and not a total scumbag? Coster-Waldau brings a lot of that energy to the role of Bob Hightower, a small-town detective, a “desk jockey” as his chief indelicately put it, who goes hunting for the deadly cult that murdered his ex-wife, her current husband, and kidnapped Bob’s daughter for sex trafficking purposes. This bloody scene sets a vicious tone; if it’s too much for you here, then the rest might send you cowering into a corner.

A religious man whose faith has been shaken by this tragedy, Bob is the last person to know where to start looking for a sex trafficking cult. Fortunately, he finds help from Case Hardin, aka “Headcase”, played by the terrific actress Maika Monroe. Her body marked from head to toe in tattoos, as most of the folks in this movie are, Case has intimate knowledge of the cult leader, the wild-eyed maniac Cyrus (Karl Glusman). She also knows how Cyrus treats women; she has the scars, broken bones, and knocked-out teeth to prove it.

The amount of violence against women in God is a Bullet is off the charts, and should leave you squeamish. Women are punched, kicked, shot in the face multiple times, stabbed, and that’s when they’re not being berated or sexually manhandled. It’s all tough to watch, but fitting for this decrepid Hell that Bob has walked into willingly, and that Case has reentered for her own vengeful purposes.

Not that Bob and Case seem to know what they’re doing, exactly. This isn’t a movie where the heroes have a plan all laid out. They mostly just hang around all of the bad people they know are guilty until the situation gets untenable. And when that happens, people start dying…and dying in horrendous fashion. When someone gets shot in the face, you see the jaw hanging off of what remains of their skull. Bullets rip through flesh, blades leave a body a deformed, mangled mess. Those with weak stomachs need not apply.

Jamie Foxx has an odd role as The Ferryman, a one-armed tattoo artist stricken with Vitiligo, meaning his skin is covered in patches of white. January Jones, always such a porcelain goddess, gets dirtied up a little bit as a drunken trophy wife to a shady cop. Her storyline doesn’t seem to have much of a point until much later, and even when it does it still feels out of place. And that’s a big problem with God is a Bullet. At over 2 1/2 hours in length, there’s a lot of drag that could’ve been trimmed. It’s also a lot of time to spend in a world this grim. When a scene where Bob staples shut a gaping stomach wound is a cheerful highlight, you know things are rough.

Fortunately, Cassavetes has a cast of actors who are compelling enough to keep you keyed in. Coster-Waldau is fantastic as Bob, whose descent into this madness finds him contradicting his faith at every turn. He goes from a man of God to one who murders, gets tattoos, and basically reconsiders everything he ever knew. Meanwhile, Monroe, who has quietly been one of our best actresses since breaking out with 2012’s At Any Price, plays Case as a flawed and fearless avenger. After having walked away from Cyrus years earlier, she walks back into the lion’s den knowing it could mean her death, but there are some truths that are too important to ignore.

God is a Bullet isn’t an easy film, and that’s exactly how Cassavetes wanted it. An adaptation of Boston Teran’s novel, it’s like an elevated version of the edgy, gritty thrillers of the home video era.  It is gratuitous, gory, and trashy in the best ways, but would be even better with a tighter focus.

God is a Bullet is in theaters now, and will expand digitally on July 11th.

God is a Bullet
Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-god-is-a-bulletPrepare yourself. God is a Bullet is raw, unsparing, brutal in its depiction of violence in a depraved, soulless world. We shouldn't be surprised the film is so unnerving. It comes to us from Nick Cassavetes, who despite giving us the ultimate depiciton of romance idealized...