Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pusher 2 and 3

The Pusher series is more akin to an incredible TV show than a cinematic trilogy like The Godfather or Lord of the Rings or even Star Wars (fuck those prequels).  A lot of times these things have pretty grand scales to them.  The Pushers go the other way and use a stripped down production that focuses entirely on character with minimal effects and action.

Pusher 2 is all about Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale (2006))), Frank’s friend and partner from the first film.  He’s fresh out of jail and decides to hook up with his father, who’s a crime boss that runs a chop shop, to get on the payroll.  Tonny is a fuckup though and even when he tries to do something nice like steal a Ferrari his old man gets pissed because it’s too high profile.  The father keeps giving him chances to redeem himself and I think in his heart he wants his son to be a good criminal but Tonny doesn’t make it easy.  The relationship they have is totally fucked up and now that I’m thinking about it every relationship that Tonny has it fucked up.  I mean he had a baby with this hooker and you think that maybe this is what’s going to turn him around and either make him go straight or at least mature into a proper mobster like his father.  But Tonny goes back and forth about wanting to take on the responsibility of having a kid.  He’s not ready to settle down but at the same time he knows deep down that he’s not great at being a gangster.

Pusher 3 turns our attention to Milo, Frank’s old supplier.  We open with him at a drug counseling meeting.  He admits that he’s an addict and that he’s only been sober for a couple of days.  At first I thought this was a trick or a dream or something.  I never would’ve thought that Milo would change like this and try to get himself straight.  Fortunately we learn immediately after this scene that he still deals drugs.  Now that’s what I’m talking about.  This is fucking fantastic writing from Refn to have Milo want to get off drugs himself but not even think twice about giving up pushing them on others.  Having him be this hypocritical makes him seem like even more of a scumbag (and in his case that’s a good thing, I love the idea).

Milo ends up scoring some ecstasy, which he doesn’t deal in, so he tries to find out what happened to his heroin shipment and how to get rid of the pills.  We also find out that it’s his daughter’s birthday and that he needs to cook for 50 people.  So Milo’s really stressed out.  And don’t forget on top of all of this he’s trying to stay sober.  What I found particularly interesting and sad about Milo’s situation is that he can’t even tell his men that he’s quitting drugs.  Instead when he goes to the drug counseling he tells them that he’s going to get a haircut.  Milo can’t bring himself to ask for help or understanding from his guys because he knows that they’ll think he’s gone soft and try to either muscle him out or kill him.

The whole movie takes place over the course of one day and that day is probably the worst in Milo’s life.  Most of the time it moves kinda slow but towards the end it suddenly kicks into high gear and all at once Milo and the audience find themselves in a situation seemingly without an exit.  And I say “the audience” because I was with Milo the entire time.  I fucking love this character with all of his charisma and sliminess.  This installment gives us a great Milo story because on one hand I don’t want to see him in such dire circumstances but on the other what happens to him and how he reacts is part of what makes him the fucking man, he won’t take shit from nobody. 

All of the Pushers end on cliffhangers, really fucking good cliffhangers, making them feel even more like a TV show.  I wondered for days after seeing each of the three films what was going to happen to these characters.  The ending to Pusher 3 is particularly badass and a real nasty way to cap the series.  I really wish I could talk about it but it’s way better if you just go into it without knowing anything.

The completely unresolved endings might make you throw up your arms and wonder how a filmmaker can just say “stop” at such a crucial moment but it totally works.  It makes the whole thing feel like just a sliver of something much bigger.  The cliffhangers lend a sense of weight and realism to the characters and their situations.  And come to think of it I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that’s not part of a series where the filmmakers knew there would be sequels that leaves the main plot completely up in the air when the credits roll.  Maybe there’ll be a hint that another escapade lies ahead like in the first Back to the Future (the “to be continued” at the end of the VHS version was put there as a joke unknowing that there would be sequels) or even Deep Rising but the immediate adventure is always wrapped up.  With these movies Refn decides to call it quits right at the moment when he knows you’re the most emotionally invested.  It may be dirty but it’s very effective.  

While the first Pusher had a bit (just a bit) more of a cinematic feel the sequels seem more like documentaries.  I believed these characters were real and this is the huge and dangerous world they live in.  Everything just seems so organic.  The flow of the story and the character development feels natural.  This is due to Refn taking his time and having you get to know these guys so when shit goes down you care, you care hard.  I was hanging on every word.  I loved tagging along with these characters and getting a nice long glimpse into their lives. 

As for which picture is the best, I’m gonna cop out and say that they’re all pretty equal.  The first one is certainly the most even paced and you could argue that it has the most tension.  After that it actually doesn’t matter a whole lot which sequel you see first because the two stories don’t link up.  I mean there is one thing that connects them (which means that for the timeline of the movies the events in Pusher 2 did occur before Pusher 3) but you won’t get lost.  The second one is interesting because even though Tonny isn’t the most likeable character I found myself being with him and wanted to see him get his life together.  That one also has the best soundtrack.  But I think I’m kinda partial to the third one.  It features the best character between the three and again, that ending is pretty fucking cool.        

Now that I’ve seen all three these films remind me of Oz with the feel, lingo, pacing, variety of characters and evolving story line.  They’re not action movies but character studies so if you’re looking for shootouts and nonstop fist fights you’re in the wrong place.  They’re truly an accomplishment and one of the best series’ of films I’ve ever seen.  It was smart to focus on different characters for the sequels instead of just continuing Frank’s storyline.  I don’t know if Refn has thought about doing any more of these, especially now that it’s been a while and he’s much more sought after because of Drive, but I’m definitely up for more.  He really knows what he’s doing guys.  You’ve got to check these out.

Oh and happy New Year.  Thanks to anyone who reads this shit that I post.  I meant for this little slice of internet to be a place where we could talk about movies that we like or don’t like, give recommendations and feel okay admitting that we like to watch some sappy shit like Dr. Zhivago, some kiddy shit like Faerie Tale Theater, some girly shit like Cinderella, some musical shit like Yankee Doodle Dandy or even some inexplicable shit like Rhinestone every once in a while.  Again, thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.  There’s plenty of good, bad and ugly shit to talk about in the New Year, see you guys then.   

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Last Temptation of Christ

This was a pretty cool and different take on the Jesus saga.  They throw in the usual hits like him turning water into wine and flipping out at the money changers in the temple.  Willem Dafoe gives a pretty amazing performance as a tortured human and divine being.  His monologues in particular are delivered perfectly with such emotion.  Everyone else feels kind of out of place though, especially Harvey Keitel.  I love you man, but I just didn’t buy that you’re a man of those times or that you have curly red hair.

If you’re into biblical stories you should definitely check this out.  It’s probably one of the best in the genre.  I doubt anything is going to unseat The Ten Commandments (1956) for me though.  Now that’s some unbelievably epic shit and can’t recommend it enough. 

I guess I should give full disclosure and let you guys know that I’m not religious at all.  If you are then The Last Temptation of Christ might not portray the Jesus you want to see.  Personally, I found the film to be really thought provoking and bold.  Good job Scorsese.  The only real bummer is that the Peter Gabriel soundtrack is a letdown.

The scene above is after Jesus has meditated in the desert for a month and when he emerges his views have changed.  I love how he’s like a mafia crime boss that’s finally had enough of Satan muscling in on his territory.  The speech he gives is bad fucking ass.  Jesus has got a brand new bag.      

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't Open Till Christmas

This one is your run of the mill slasher flick.  And even though it takes a bunch of things from Halloween it didn’t feel like a Halloween knock off…most of the time.

I like how simple the plot is, there’s a guy killing Santas.  The deaths are pretty good and varied and the story moves pretty well.  The cinematography can be bad at times though.  And the music cues tend to be awkward and feel out of place every once in a while.

Overall it’s not bad or great.  But I forgot I was watching a Christmas themed slasher movie about half way through even though there are these Santas being murdered.  I mean this film is Christmas related and there’s decorations and shit everywhere but I dunno, all of that seemed to fade into the background and be forgotten about after a while.  That’s just me though.  I’m sure it’ll come off differently to different people.

The scene above is a particularly nasty death handed out to a Santa.  Nothing like a urinal mutilation to summon the Christmas spirit. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Silent Night, Deadly Night 1-5 (Merry Fucking Christmas)

One of the best movie posters ever.

I’m all for holiday related horror movies and especially Christmas ones.  A killer Santa or snow man is the kind of material that gets me going and into the spirit of things.  The Silent Night, Deadly Night series is a mixed bag (like almost every series) so let’s sort out what’s good and what’s crap.

When I went back to check out the first film again it was better than I remembered.  In fact I would call it a classic.  It’s an interesting take on the slasher genre because instead of keeping the killer’s identity a secret you know who it is the whole time.  The killer Santa, Billy, isn’t out for revenge, he’s just psychotic.  His parents were killed by a Santa when he was about five so now he gets a little weird around Christmas time.  The nuns that raised him were very strict so it’s been instilled in him to punish people that are naughty.

It’s a really great concept and it’s pulled off well.  This is the raunchiest in the series with the most gruesome deaths.  I give it a thumbs up.  Most people didn’t though and TriStar pulled it from theaters amid controversy from the public and scathing reviews from critics.  This film really became popular and a cult favorite when it came out on video.  This led to the making of the second film. 

Initially Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 was supposed to be just a reediting of the first picture with maybe some new scenes thrown in to extend the shelf life.  The editor/director hired to do the job, Lee Harry, agreed to recut the movie but also convinced the studio to let him make his own film.  So the result is something unusual.  The first third or so is Ricky (Billy’s brother who’s also crazy) telling Billy’s story to a psychiatrist (I think) while he’s locked up in a mental institution.  This is your reedited portion.  After that Ricky moves on to his own life story and how he came to be in the hospital.  This is your new material portion.

So what Part 2 boils down to is it contains all of the deaths from the first film and its own movie’s worth of killings.  Add that up and it’s double the amount of a normal slasher film.  The only problem is that the deaths from the first movie are recut to be less graphic.  But this doesn’t bother me so much because you still see the people getting killed.  It’s just that some shots were either dropped or shortened to make things less gory and shocking.  And I know there are people out there that have been or are going to be offended by this but this is what Harry was hired to do.  In my opinion I wouldn’t say that all the balls were chopped off.  It’s more like they were trimmed a bit.  Keep in mind that we’re given a whole new set of homicides to compensate.  And they came up with some good ones too like they stick jumper cables in one guy’s mouth, a loan shark gets impaled by an umbrella and Ricky goes on a shooting spree at one point.  So I think it’s a net gain.

The only real problem with Part 2 is that Ricky’s story doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas.  The retelling of the events from part 1 is all murdering Santa but Ricky’s story is about how he had this girlfriend and then snapped one day possibly during or not during Christmas.  He gets in the Santa suit at the end though which is redeeming.

Now onto the acting.  I have to mention it and if you’ve seen Part 2 you know what I’m talking about.  The guy who plays Ricky is a really bad actor but hang on folks, he’s so goddamn entertaining.  The put-on attitude, the bulging eyes, the fake deep throated voice, I love it all.  It only makes this thing more watchable and more fun in my opinion.  I don’t know if it’s the mother from Troll 2 or the wife from Gone With the Pope bad but it’s up there.  That last sentence was meant to be a complement by the way.  I’m putting this guy in prestigious company.

For a taste here's the infamous "garbage day!" line:

I really like Part 2 and think it’s the best in the series.  Some people might get turned off on it though because it may seem like the filmmakers sort of played it for laughs this time with the lighter tone of the new material.  But I say “sort of” because there are still a bunch of people that get merced and there aren’t any deliberate jokes thrown in.  I don’t think they meant to make their film funny but rather they just didn’t want it to be as dark as the first.  Combine that with the fairly atrocious acting, not very good writing and just ok production and it could get misinterpreted.  I think they tried hard to make their own horror flick and this is how it came out.

Moving on to the third one I’m gonna get right to the point and say don’t see it.  It was very terribly painfully and mercilessly boring.  Not a goddamn thing happens for pretty much the entire picture.  The story goes that Ricky has been in a coma for the past bunch of years, suddenly wakes up and then continues to kill people.  He works his way to this blind teenage girl (who kinda looks like Jennifer Connelly) that he has a psychic connection with. 

This is what Ricky looks like in the
the third one, scary no? No.
Almost all of the deaths are offscreen, the characters aren’t interesting, the psychic thing is lame mostly because they don’t use it very much in the story making it kind of pointless, they try to turn Ricky into a Jason or Michael Myers type figure by making him be almost invincible even though he’s not scary or threatening looking at all and it has nothing to do with Christmas.  The movie happens to take place on Christmas or Christmas Eve (not sure which) but it could’ve taken place on March 5th and it wouldn’t have made a difference.  This one offers nothing, skip it.

With the fourth installment they decided to take a departure from the original lineage of the first three films and make a different type of movie altogether.  This time a reporter, Kim (Neith Hunter (Less Than Zero)), is being harassed by some witches.  Kim has visions of bugs, some other bugs and yet more bugs.  In fact the movie was called Bugs in the UK which seems to be a more apt title.  Once again this one has nothing to do with Christmas.

Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 isn’t a bad film on its own though and has some things going for it.  First of all it stars Clint Howard (Ice Cream Man, That Thing You Do!) who always plays such weird creepy characters in both shitty B movies and A movies alike.  I guess he’s par for the course in this one in terms of character and while he’s not the male lead he’s in this an awful lot which is kind of rare for him.  So if you have a craving for Clint this is a good opportunity to get a healthy dose.

The second cool thing is all the nifty effects.  There are giant bugs, hands and legs that turn into bug-like things, people on fire and other shit.  I was really impressed with how much the filmmakers were able to accomplish with what I’m sure was a very tiny budget.

Reminds me of A Clockwork Orange with Clint
in his raping mask.
The third cool aspect of this installment is that it was directed by Brian Yuzna.  He directed Return of the Living Dead III (which was alright) and The Dentist (which I haven’t seen yet but have heard is good).  And according to IMDB he also got a story credit for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (don’t know how I feel about that one, I guess it’s cool?).

So like I said, it’s not bad but is a separate item unto itself and doesn’t fit with the series.

The fifth and final film that we have is The Toy Maker.  At last we have a viable Christmas type concept:  there are killer toys that are terrorizing people.  This one surprisingly stars Mickey Rooney (tons of shit, especially when he was really young) as the toy maker and (fuck it I’m gonna spoil it) he’s not evil actually.  He made a life size teenage robot boy that went crazy somehow and he’s the one that makes the deadly toys.  Not a terrible twist but the robot boy thing you can see coming a mile away.

The problem with this one is that it feels too sluggish and under baked.  In other words it doesn’t seem like there are enough toy deaths and the plot wasn’t worked out enough.  The overall Halloween III type idea of killing kids with something kid specific on a holiday is a great one but unlike Halloween III we don’t make it to our destination.  The evil scheme is unraveled before hardly any presents are given out so we never have this doomsday scenario or countdown to mass murder.  In fact only one kid gets hurt (but not killed) and he’s an asshole teenager (a little older and meaner than the targets these toys were designed for I think).  In Halloween III they had the balls to actually kill a defenseless innocent child.  I guess they didn’t want to go in that direction and in turn made it pretty tame.  This film was not ambitious enough and took an easier path.

This toy attack scene from part 5 was pretty
cool actually.
Part 5 was directed by Martin Kitrosser and the reason I’m mentioning him is because I thought it was impressive that he’s been the script supervisor for all of Quentin Tarantino’s films and also for Friday the 13th 1 and 2.  Just some trivia for you.

So what about the series overall?  Well it’s a little weird how they all panned out.  I mean the first one is the only down and dirty legit slasher film.  I love Part 2 but it’s a strange hybrid.  Part 3 is garbage, part 4 has nothing to do with anything but is fine on its own and part 5 has a halfway descent concept but doesn’t offer great entertainment.  At least that one’s about Christmas though.  Parts 3, 4 and half of 2 aren’t really Christmas related.

And there you have it, the Silent Night, Deadly Night series in a nutshell.  So much potential, so many possibilities, some payoff, but so much disappointment.    

To end this piece on a high note here's an awesome scene from the first one, merry fucking Christmas:


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

It took a long damn time but I finally got around to checking this piece out.  Sunset Boulevard is one of my favorite movies of all time and this seemed like it would be in the same vein.  There’s something about has-been entertainers that really interests me.  From a filmmaking standpoint it presents a wealth of material for an actor to draw from and usually results in a depressing yet sympathetic performance.  But in both film and reality there are many forgotten about celebrities that are totally delusional.  That’s the good shit and this film delivers just that.

We start in the old vaudeville days where we see that baby Jane is a dancing and singing little girl.  The audience loves her and she even has her own doll for sale.  The problem is that she’s a stinking brat that throws tantrums.  Jane’s sister, Blanche, seems annoyed and perhaps jealous of her success.  Cut to 30’s Hollywood where the tables have turned and now Blanche is a famous adored actress while Jane is a rotten one that nobody cares about.  One night the two of them get into a car accident causing Blanche to become paralyzed from the waist down.  Now skip to modern day (of 1962) where the sisters live in an old dilapidated mansion.  Blanche (Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce)) is wheelchair bound and confined to the upper floor of the house.  She looks to be in good health though and seems like a nice person that enjoys reading fan mail and getting a kick out of her old films.  Jane (Bette Davis (All About Eve)) on the other hand looks like total shit.  It’s like they cast Leatherface with her sagging skin, enormous amount of lipstick and dreadfully messy hair.  She’s grown frumpy, lumpy and dumpy.  Jane is also mean and controlling.  Since Blanche depends on Jane to feed her and take care of everything Jane takes advantage of her position by doing shit like taking Blanche’s telephone away and imitating Blanche’s voice to order booze over the phone.

Almost the entire picture takes place inside the house and that helps to give it a real confined feel.  Whenever there are shots of anything other than the house it’s a relief and then depressing when we eventually go back to the mansion (just like Sunset Boulevard).  Blanche is more or less a prisoner and things escalate pretty quickly when Jane kills Blanche’s pet bird and serves it to her for lunch.  From there on Blanche fears all the food that Jane gives to her causing starvation.  And that’s just the beginning.  Jane goes on to do even crazier shit and by the end she sinks totally into her own mentally distorted mind.

Speaking of the ending (don’t worry I won’t spoil it), it’s the key to the film.  So the whole time we’re chugging along taking sides and figuring out what’s what but then at the very last moment the filmmakers throw a monkey wrench into the damn thing.  For me it completely changed how I viewed these characters and the overall movie.  They present us with something that’s genuinely fucked up and makes the picture you’ve witnessed seem even more fucked up than before.  They got me.  I never saw it coming and I’m very happy that this ending is almost never talked about. 

The only thing that kinda bothered me throughout the film was the score.  Only sometimes did it fit well with the images on screen while most of the time it was too bright and/or peppy.  And I want to make clear the distinction between busy and peppy.  You can have a busy dark score that evokes feelings of creeping and impending doom.  Psycho is a good example of that.  It’s very unsettling and nervous.  Peppy has a bounce to it that isn’t so concerned with what’s going on or what’s to come.  This movie’s score is more suited for a drama that isn’t so heavy and gloomy in my opinion.  Ultimately the music doesn’t ruin the film but it’s out of place enough to be noticed.

C'mon guys, tell me that's not Leatherface
Both Crawford and Davis give great performances here.  Davis has the harder role and really nails this character.  There’s a lot for her to work with and she truly becomes this person.  Crawford’s role is hard too but in a different way.  She’s limited in her movement and restricted as an actor because of the wheelchair.  Crawford makes it work real well though.  What was interesting to find out after seeing the film was that these actresses really did hate each other in real life.  I kind of wish I had known this going in because it would have been another layer added to the viewing experience but the film was pretty great anyway.

So what ever the fuck did happen to baby Jane?  She became an absolutely insane psychotic bitch.  It’s not as good as Sunset Boulevard but few movies are.  I think you should see it.  It’s a good take on the same idea.  Damn, I can’t get over how disgustingly extreme Bette Davis’ face looked in this. 

Monday, December 5, 2011


There was a rash of inner city school movies that came out in the 80’s and 90’s like Dangerous Minds, The Substitute, Stand and Deliver and Lean on Me.  I thought 187 (the police code for homicide) was following in the tradition of teacher arrives at tough predominantly black and/or Latino high school, is shocked to see how fucked up it is, students reject new teacher and make his/her life hell, teacher sticks with it and earns the students’ respect through some unorthodox activity, students turn their lives around, teacher gets fired or attacked, students come to his/her aid, teacher retains his or her job/dignity, everyone lives happily ever after, the end.  Well, some of this happens in our movie but it goes in a totally different direction in general and by the end I didn’t quite know what to make of it.

Sam Jackson (Menace II Society) is Trevor Garfield, a somewhat happy science teacher at a high school in Brooklyn.  He seems to enjoy teaching his class and his students sort of respect him.  Well that is until he sees that someone wrote “187” in huge font on every single page of their textbook.  Trevor’s worried about it and after a brief investigation he finds out that a student (Method Man in his breakout non-self role) is pissed at him for flunking him.  In fact Method Man is so ticked that he stabs Trevor in the back with a giant nail like a dozen times.  I would think this would be enough to kill anyone or maybe paralyze them but it’s not gonna keep Trevor fucking Garfield down.  Cut to fifteen months later where he’s now in L.A. and settling for substitute teaching positions.  He gets a gig at a local high school and his world goes from bad to much worse.

First Trevor goes into the wrong classroom and gets embarrassed.  Then he runs into Benny (Lobo Sebastian (Ghosts of Mars, Leprechaun in the Hood)) who’s a gangbanger and gives him some attitude.  Trevor discovers later that the pretty computer science teacher, Ellen (Kelly Rowan (Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh)), is being terrorized by him.  The other bad guy in this is Cesar (Clifton Collins Jr. although he’s credited here as Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez (Tigerland)).  He’s another gangbanger, the toughest kid in class and the cause of most of Trevor’s problems.

Cesar steals Trevor’s watch, smokes weed on school property and kills Ellen’s dog.  I thought the goal of Trevor was to turn Cesar around and make him see the error of his ways but that’s not what’s going on here.  Spoilers.  If you’re actually going to see this movie don’t keep reading.  Instead of being the enlightened professorial sage that we expect, Trevor goes to war.  The incident in New York killed him inside so now he has no patience for troublemakers.  Benny dies fairly early on in the film and as the picture progresses we’re led to believe that Trevor killed him.  We’re also given clues that he drugged Cesar and cut off his finger.  I thought at the end it was going to be revealed that someone else did it and our faith in our lead would be restored.  However when Cesar has finally had enough and confronts Trevor with his gun toting gang Trevor admits to doing the deeds.  He could’ve snapped and just be saying that because he doesn’t care anymore but I believe that he really did kill one student and mangle another.  Then out of nowhere comes a Russian roulette scene (ok fine, Cesar was watching The Deer Hunter before but you don’t think anything’s going to come of it).  Trevor loses it and pulls the trigger three times instead of your usual one time and demands that Cesar play along with him. 

I mean what the fuck?  This movie has such a bizarre feel to it and is very unlike those other inner city school films.  This was directed by Kevin Reynolds and you may know him from the pretty bad Waterworld or the really awful Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  I actually kind of enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) though.  Technically most of the things he tries here don’t work that well.  A couple of examples are that he has the students and classroom be out of focus when Trevor first starts teaching and there’s a scene where there are these shadows of kids playing basketball that get bigger and more aggressive while Trevor and Ellen have an increasingly tense conversion.  New York is shot with icy blue filters while L.A. is hot sticky yellow.  We’ve seen that a lot before but I still think it looks cool and is effective.  Every once in a while Reynolds will throw in a cool shot.  There’s one that’s particularly badass, it’s a close up of a teacher (John Heard (Home Alone, C.H.U.D.)) holding a gun in front of a certificate that reads “excellence in teaching”.  

As for the story side there are some things that are brought up that don’t get resolved and plot devices that are mentioned once and then forgotten about.  The whole story seems kinda out there but the way they get around this is at the end there’s some text that reads “this movie was written by a teacher”.  According to him on the commentary track a bunch of the things in this film actually happened to him in real life.  I’m still reluctant to believe that he killed one of his kids though.

Overall this is a pretty fuckin’ weird movie.  It’s interesting to see a teacher fight back against the students but it wasn’t done explicitly enough.  Most of the accusations are just that, accusations.  The filmmakers leave it up to the audience to decide if Trevor really did do the things he admits to.  The problem is they didn’t make it ambiguous enough.  I think by the end it’s pretty clear that Trevor is capable of the crimes presented to us and that he did carry them out.  So if you’re going to tell us this stuff then why not go all the way and show Trevor committing the murder and de-fingering.  You want to side with the guy because he’s trying to help these kids but at the same time he’s acting worse than the students.  It brings up some intriguing questions about teaching and at what point, if ever, do you give up on certain kids.  What extremes do you go to in order to get through to them?  Would you sacrifice your life to set one kid straight?

Do I recommend it?  I guess so.  I’m not very enthusiastic about it but it’s definitely a twist on the sub-genre.  Sam Jackson’s kind of stiff in it most of the time but he lets loose at the end which is the best part of the movie.  John Heard is entertaining as a burned out teacher that keeps a gun in his desk drawer.  Kelly Rowan is alright but I don’t buy for a second that her character and Trevor get together.  The part where Rowan tells her students about e-mail is very outdated and funny to watch.  It’s kind of annoying when I don’t know how to feel about a film but that’s the magic of cinema, right?