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  Publicity Stills of "Havoc"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

Genre: Drama
Director: Barbara Koppel
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Bijou Phillips, Shiri Appleby & Michael Biehn
RunTime: 1 hr 25 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: M18
(Sexual Content)
Official Site: http://www.media8ent.com/mdp/movies.asp?movieID=16

Opening Day: 29 June 2006

Synopsis :

The lives of wealthy teenagers living in Los Angeles whose exposure to "hip hop culture" inspires them to imitate the "gangsta lifestyle." Although, they soon run into trouble when they come face-to-face with a real gang of Latino drug dealers. Havoc also features Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries) first nude scenes.

Movie Review:

Originally a straight-to-DVD release for domestic audiences in the US and Europe, Havoc has just found its way to our theatres. On whether that’s a good thing, is still up for debate. Especially when its single-minded publicity campaign is in every respect being fuelled by the notion of bored girls gone wild and ghetto. If that last sentence had you conjuring up images of drug use, gang violence and sex, that’s exactly what this film delivers in spades.

Like a page out of Larry Clark’s playbook, the story revolves around bored white teenagers with copious amounts of free time and money. They find themselves getting acquainted with drugs, sex and hip-hop to keep the numbness of suburbia out of their lives. They have formed their own inconsequential gang, the P.L.C., and head up illegal activities with the confidence in daddy’s fat chequebook bailing them out when trouble knocks on their doors.

Lead on by pop culture characterisations, they emulate the street-talking, hardened personas of their less fortunate counterparts in the ghetto. On a night like any other, they head out to the mean streets of the city. After an altercation with a Latino drug dealer, the boys swear revenge while the girls are enthralled by the dangers lurking across the highway from their homes. Soon they head back to the slums where the real street gangs’ hang out, flirting with disaster while enjoying the attention they get from them. Obviously nothing transpires the way the way they hoped that it would.

Think Grease, West Side Story and Reefer Madness with a modern day twist. All the classic elements are there while enveloped in faux grit and hardboiled emotions. The good girl lured to the dangerous hoodlum, the warring factions of society and the underlying warning for nice boys and girls to resist temptation are all throwbacks to the Age of Affluence. Thrown in for good measure is a subplot of a classmate following them about, filming a verite-style docudrama of their fascination with gang culture and the apparent personal isolation they live through. Although it’s a cheap shot, it manages to be effective in bringing across the reasons and feeling concerning the teenagers’ actions through the reflective exposition of a personal and sincere interview.

But it’s really all about Anne Hathaway isn’t it? The young, gorgeous icon of many female tweens and the fantasy of even more teenage boys finally attempts to shed the bubblegum pop image that the Princess Diaries movies and Ella Enchanted had gifted her. If there’s one thing you must have heard about Havoc, it was the candid nude scenes that she has in this film as she consciously slips into sinful degradation.

Allison, her character together with Bijou Phillip’s Emily is its main focus. Their portrayals, especially Hathaway’s are impressive and natural. The scenes with undertones of sexuality between the two best friends are handled exceptionally well by the actresses. Although this performance was supposed to be off tangent and bold, she actually does not stray far from her role in The Princess Diaries by being a strong, intelligent and independent character who gets into something way beyond her control.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the rest of the characters. While not a drab ensemble by any means, the obviously talented cast that includes acting veterans like Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Mysterious Skin, Brick), Laura San Giacomo (Just Shoot Me, Pretty Woman, The Stand) and Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under, Can’t Hardly Wait) are so misused that it’s a crying shame. Even more shocking are the creative team behind the film in director, Barbara Kopple (American Dream, Harland County, U.S.A.) and scriptwriter, Stephen Gaghan (Traffic). Both Oscar winners failed to offer more depth to their characters and seemed satisfied to develop a prototypical aspect to their eventually unlikable and borderline offensive supporting characters.

For a film that aimed to show the flaws of pop culture and its ill-advised characterisations, it was somehow not self-aware enough to know how far they have fallen into that very sandpit. Like the characters straight out of Jamie Kennedy’s similarly themed Malibu’s Most Wanted, the depictions of the Latino drug dealers and the jaded white teenagers are at times farcical. However, as much as it tries too hard, it is also made compelling by the film’s brisk pace and captivating young leads.

Movie Rating:

(Come for the breasts, stay for the flawed but ultimately interesting premise)

Review by Justin Deimen



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