Sundance Review: THE DEATH OF DICK LONG Offers Tragedy At Its Most Hysterical

“You motherfuckers wanna get weird?”

Boys will be boys. Men probably shouldn’t be though. The men in The Death of Dick Long really shouldn’t be.

Pals Zeke Olsen (Michael Abbott Jr.), Earl Wyeth (Andre Hyland), and Dick Long (Daniel Scheinert) live a life of frozen adolescence in small-town Alabama. Most nights, they practice their late ‘90s cover band and once the wives leave, get super wasted and wild. It’s all in good fun until one night of rowdy shenanigans leaves Dick Long unconscious and bleeding as his friends dump him off in front of the nearest emergency room. Whatever injury Dick has sustained (and I wouldn’t spoil such a thing for a million dollars), it ends up killing him.

This begins a madcap 24 hours in which Zeke and Earl must cover their tracks to make sure they don’t get pinched for Dick’s death. The trouble is, they are both deeply stupid. Luckily for them, the police are equally stupid. Also, did they even commit a crime? As the walls close in, their mistakes become more and more absurd. No wait, the walls close in because their mistakes grow more and more absurd.

The Death of Dick Long was directed by Daniel Scheinert, one half of Swiss Army Man’s “The Daniels”, from a script by Billy Chew. Compared to Swiss Army Man, it definitely has that feel of a side project, personal but small, good but not vital. 

While amazing lines of dialogue abound, the film’s biggest laughs come from its keen details about life in Alabama, exaggerated yet so dead perfect. The sound of Earl’s vape, the plodding way the band struggles through Staind’s “It’s Been a While”, watching an old lady in a muumuu mow a steep part of her lawn by feeding and pulling the mower with a rope. The film’s general feel is a stew of Jody Hill’s comic broadness, David Gordon Green’s affection, and the criminal idiocy favored by the Coen Brothers. Except for the fact that it is absurd and funny, it doesn’t have much in common with Swiss Army Man’s poignancy, though there is a melancholy to it. Barely.

The Death of Dick Long may be something of a minor work, but it still is quite good, with a masterful third act reveal that recontextualizes everything you’ve seen in a way only brilliant writing can. I loved it and, with the right set of expectations, highly recommend the film to weirdos everywhere.