Imagine Kevin Smith, the blasphemous bad boy of suburban Jersey, if he were stripped of most of his budget and all of his sense of humor. The result might look like Vulgar, a chintzy ”transgressive” feature that dares you to find it tasteless and ugly and sordid and a lot of other things that, for better or worse, have long since become commonplace in polite society. Financed by Smith’s View Askew Productions, and written, directed, and coedited by his protege (read: old teenage chum) Bryan Johnson, the movie is built around a spectacularly unpleasant sequence in which the title character, a loser who works as a party clown, hires himself out to a bachelor party, where he is gang-raped by a trio of scummy lowlifes who look like they stepped out of some long-lost John Waters version of Deliverance.
And that’s the fun part of the movie. Brian O’Halloran, one of the stars of Clerks, attempts to act up a storm as the beleaguered victim clown, who in a fearless satirical twist soon emerges as…a media star! Vulgar, a movie that made me long for the competent lighting of Death to Smoochy, seems to have been designed to shock the kind of people who once attended midnight shows. The only thing shocking about it, however, is the degree to which self-congratulatory gutter exhibitionism has become the degraded ash end of indie ”edge.” F