Only the Good Survive, 2023.
Written and Directed by Dutch Southern.
Starring Sidney Flanigan, Frederick Weller, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Will Ropp, Darius Fraser, Lachlan Watson, Randy Wayne, Carol Hickey, Jeff Worden, Pat Turner, Patrick A. Grover, and Jon Gries.
After a heist gone wrong and results in the deaths of all three of her friends, Brea finds herself in the custody of the small-town sheriff, who may be hiding as many secrets as she is, the only sure thing is that only one will survive.
With an aggressively stylistic touch utilizing everything from animated bits, gore that feels weightless considering a tonal dissonance, an abundance of quirkiness through flashbacks detailing how a simple robbery went off the rails and turned into a demented struggle for survival against a child kidnapping murder cult, and a twisted revenge tale about orphan bonds, writer and director Dutch Southern’s feature-length directorial debut Only the Good Survive (previously known for a well-received Power Rangers short) is instantaneously alienating and never recovers. Somehow, these 92 minutes feel like two-plus hours, presumably because the craziness on display feels forced and empty.
For perspective and to give credit to Dutch Southern in one area, as the film begins with sole bloodbath survivor Brea Dunlee (Sidney Flanagan) under interrogation by shady, upbeat detective Cold Mack (Frederick Weller) and gives glimpses of what crime occurred, it initially came across as something climactic the film would be building up to. It happens in full during one of the first flashbacks, meaning there is something to admire regarding how off the rails the story becomes. The problem is that it doesn’t make much sense, the characters are hollow, the comedy doesn’t land, and the violence is uncreative.
Brea had been lonely and directionless until she met Ryan (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), stumbling into love at first sight and going together strong for two years now. Ryan also wants a traditional life, including a family, but might not have the means to provide for that. As such, they discover some gold coins in a remote home occupied by an elderly couple that their knowledgeable friend assures are worth millions of dollars on the open and black markets. They bring in their other temperamental friend to stage a robbery, splitting the eventual currency three ways. Brea also gets roped into the lookout role, but even the term roped is a stretch; she has so little agency as a character, left to be defined in the absurd final 30 minutes.
While searching for the coins, the group finds a baby locked up upstairs, quickly turning things into a rescue mission while the elderly couple reveals themselves as murderous cultists. Naturally, they bicker with anxiety about what to do while Brea holds onto the baby, further getting themselves into more bizarre scenarios involving killers, breaking and entering, nude squatters, and more.
Throughout this, Cole interrogates Brea in the present day, which is generally far more serious and detached from the otherwise farcical and comedic violent tone. Only the Good Survive devolves into a “who’s playing who” game, which only works if we care about the story and characters. There’s nothing worth investing in here; it is a tonal disaster trying too hard to be zany and twisty. It had no chance of surviving based on the first five minutes.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com