Posted by Joel Copling on October 20, 2015

Almost every single sequence in "Gravy" is written to conclude with or lead into some sort of irony, which wouldn't be a problem if the film didn't delivery that irony with almost bored sarcasm. This is a cynical movie about both the trio of serial killers that infiltrates the Mexican restaurant in which our story takes place and the victims of their arbitrary game, whose punch line is as absurd as it is grotesque. The villains are an eccentric lot, although it's telling that the screenplay by Todd Harthan and director James Roday offers only one distinctive trait for all of them: psychopathic. The heroes are mostly fodder for the film's violent streak, and none of them has any distinctive trait beyond the very broad one: resourceful.

The one interesting variation on that resourcefulness is that it barely works. Ringleader of the trio Anson (Michael Weston, whose character receives some odd, ultimately inconsequential depth in the form of a crush on a convenience-store clerk played by Sarah Silverman for some reason), his brother Stef (Jimmi Simpson), and their new hire Mimi (Lily Cole, the overwhelming MVP of the cast)) constantly undermine our expectations of their intelligence, to the point that, yes, there is only a lone survivor among the people they terrorize but not in any way we anticipate. The reason is that, as much as these people are killed off, they retain resourcefulness, pushing the killers to find new and intuitive ways of dispatching these people. It's ultimately a battle of wits with blood, guts, and bone to spare.

That's also all it is, meaning that the film's adherence to the slasher-movie structure with no real point underneath is its undoing. At least the heroes are generally likable. Kerry (Sutton Foster) is the one about to move out of the country to do philanthropic work of the medical kind. Cricket (Molly Ephraim) is the foul-mouthed diva chick wearing a frilly, pink prom dress for the entirety of the evening. Bert (Ethan Sandler) is the Debbie-downer mourning the loss of his marriage to Laundrette (Stefanie E. Frame), who left him for another woman. They all converge into the Mexican restaurant (Paul Rodriguez plays the owner and Lothaire Bluteau, Gabriel Luna, and a wasted Gabourey Sidibe play his employees) at the same time as the trio of madmen, who make their motivation known very quickly: They are going to eat these employees and their patrons.

Roday and Harthan keep everything at such a light, frothy pitch (at least, relative to the material) that it's far from an off-putting motion picture--except when it comes to the violence, which rarely cuts away. This is the type of revolting grotesquerie that quickly becomes as tiresome as the methods of murder become exciting. It's the case of a movie at constant odds with itself. One character meets his end via being shoved head-first into an air-conditioning unit, while another is simply drowned. A third character is bitten in the neck before being stabbed and eviscerated (the feet served as an appetizer), while a fourth merely dies by allergic reaction. "Gravy" is indecisive about how vicious it wants to be and fairly routine in the way it serves up its viciousness.

Film Information

Michael Weston (Anson), Jimmi Simpson (Stef), Sutton Foster (Kerry), Lily Cole (Mimi), Molly Ephraim (Cricket), Paul Rodriguez (Chuy), Lothaire Bluteau (Yannick), Gabriel Luna (Hector), Ethan Sandler (Bert), Stefanie E. Frame (Laundrette), Sarah Silverman (Bethany), Gabourey Sidibe (Winketta), James Roday (Marty), Dule Hill (Delroy).

Directed by James Roday and written by Roday and Todd Harthan.

No MPAA rating.

95 minutes.

Released in select cities on October 2, 2015.