(2008) Faux Noir (Yari Film Group) Mischa Barton, Reece Daniel Thompson, Bruce Willis, Michael Rapaport, Kathryn Morris, Melonie Dias, Josh Pais, Luke Grimes, Patrick Taylor, Zoe Kravitz, Aaron Himmelstein, Joe Perrino, Tanya Fischer. Directed by Brett Simon
Teenagers are kind of stuck with a raw deal. They have little life experience but the pressure is on them to be cool, conform – and yet stand out. Of late, there have been a few movies here and there that have attempted to make teenaged film noir – movies like Brick and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys come immediately to mind – complete with world-weary tough guy narration, albeit hipped up to sound somewhat semi-authentic although usually by the time the film is released the jargon is hopelessly out-dated.
This falls in that school, although with considerably less polish. In this film, Bobby Funke (Thompson) – whose last name is pronounced “funk” but is consistently pronounced as “funky” throughout the movie – is an ambitious sophomore at the prestigious Catholic school St. Donovan. He is looking to nab himself a spot in Northwestern University’s summer journalism program, despite the small issue that he has been unable to finish a story to date.
His editor Clara (Dias) has him do a piece on the student body president Paul Moore (Taylor). Moore’s a basketball star and like many of the students at St. Donovan’s finds enjoyment in bullying Bobby. When Principal Kirkpatrick (Willis) discovers that SAT tests have been stolen from the school safe, he rounds up a bunch of the usual suspects, including Paul.
Paul is essentially ready to give up but at the urging of Francesca Facchini (Barton), one of the most beautiful and popular girls in school, he begins to dig into the case of the stolen SATs. All of the evidence points to Paul being the culprit. Bobby finally completes an article which prompts Principal Kirkpatrick to open Paul’s locker where the missing tests are found.
Clara submits Bobby’s article to Northwestern which wins him the coveted scholarship to the summer internship. Bobby goes from zero to hero, but his nature is to take nothing at face value and as he begins to dig deeper, he discovers a deeper, more sinister conspiracy going on.
This is one of those movies that takes itself far more seriously than it deserves to. While Thompson gives it a game effort, much of the dialogue and characterization makes him look and sound like an arrogant prick, not exactly an ideal way to get the audience to identify with him. Barton, taking on the role of the femme fatale, has the look down pat but not the sensuality quite yet. Don’t get me wrong – she’s a beautiful, sexy woman – but there is a difference between being beautiful and sexy and being a femme fatale; it’s beautiful and sexy on steroids.
Willis is fun to watch here; not only is he the school principal, he’s a one-legged ex-Marine who bleeds red, white and blue and no doubt has an American eagle tattooed on his tush. There are roles that call for excessive scenery chewing and Willis chows down with gusto. Make no mistake; Willis can go over-the-top with the best of them and so his casting here could only be called inspired.
Too bad the filmmakers didn’t take Bruno’s lead. Movies that turn out to be hip are generally efforts that don’t try to be, and you can tell this one is trying real hard. I don’t have an issue with teens doing noir – I just have a problem with teen noir done badly. There are some moments here that are enough to redeem this somewhat (generally the ones with Willis in them) but by and large this is one that you haven’t heard of for a reason.
WHY RENT THIS: Willis has a good time with the movie.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Regards itself as being much cooler than it actually is. Hard to get behind characters who are arrogant and spoiled.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a little bit of nudity, a good deal of sexual content, a whole lot of bad language and a fair amount of drug and alcohol use, the lot of it done by teens.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie was to have received a wide release on February 27, 2009 but the distribution company’s bankruptcy prevented it. It was released direct-to-DVD on October 6, 2009.
NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $69,564 on an unreported production budget; there is absolutely no way this movie made any sort of profit.
FINAL RATING: 5/10
TOMORROW: Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat