STUDIO: New Line
MSRP: $19.99

The Pitch

“It’s Clueless meets Colors!”

The Humans

Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries, The Princess Diaries 2), Bijou Phillips (Almost Famous, Fast Sofa), Freddy Rodriguez (Chasing Papi, Payback), Michael Biehn (Timebomb, Hog Wild)

The Nutshell

Allison (Hathaway) is a teen from California’s wealthy Pacific Palisades. Largely disregarded by oblivious parents, she and her circle of pampered friends are bored with their suburban affluence, which they express by rebelliously embracing a dubious “gangsta” lifestyle. During a night of thrillseeking, they venture into an East LA barrio and have a close encounter with tattooed drug dispenser Hector (Rodriguez) and his Latino crew. Enticed by her brief taste of darkside danger, Allison returns to the ‘hood several times to hang with Hector, ultimately asking that she and friend Emily (Phillips) be inducted into the gang… by whatever means necessary. Guess what? Bad idea.

I think Anne Hathaway may be trying to ditch her innocent public perception…

The Package

There’s a big nipple – er, nada, as far as bonus features go, but this is the unrated cut, so I’m assuming there’s additional nudity (including plenty of Hispanic manflesh) in the still relatively tame film to set it apart from the R-rated DVD release. The widescreen transfer is dark and gritty like much of the film, and there’s a solid DTS audio track to give the heavy hardcore hip-hop soundtrack plenty of room to rumble.

But I can’t be certain…

The Lowdown

A lot of you probably know young people like Allison and Emily and their boyfriends: overprivileged kids who desperately wish they were of another stratum or ethnicity, wearing “bling” and talking “street”, and it’s just as excruciating to watch here thanks to outstandingly cringe-inducing wannabe-gangsta performances by Mike Vogel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Did we really need a serious look at “wigger” culture?

What’s even worse is Havoc‘s hackneyed narrative device – a fellow classmate is shooting a documentary on this clique and their adopted “lifestyle”, thereby extracting a variety of cynical responses and embarrassing posturing from his subjects. I suppose this clichéd approach is almost to be expected considering director Barbara Kopple’s extensive documentary background, but it’s still frustratingly trite.

I think I need to see more…

Though she’s previously revealed hints of virginal divergence with some translucent red-carpet attire, odd hottie Hathaway is unashamedly trying to shed her Princess Diaries image with this role, gratuitously swearing and drinking and smoking dope and disrobing on several occasions (nipple grand total: five!). But aside from her wondrously alert breasts, the only standout performance in the film comes from Rodriguez (Six Feet Under) as the convincing ghetto thug. And pity poor Michael Biehn, relegated to just a couple of brief scenes as the ineffectual dad who doesn’t get to blast a single xenomorph or cyborg.

A modern variation of the standard opposite-sides-of-the-track good girl/bad boy exploitation tale (they might as well call Hector a “greaser”), the screenplay by Oscar-winning Traffic writer Stephen Gaghan (who finished off the late Jessica Kaplan’s script) is obviously meant to be some kind of skewed cautionary tale, but for whom? Intolerable rich white teens who crave “cred”? Is the audience genuinely expected to feel sympathy for confused upscale brats just because they don’t have a picture-perfect family life? Welcome to 80% of the current generation, querida. My pity cup is overflowing.

There’s nothing here we didn’t already learn from Malibu’s Most Wanted. Havoc just has better nipples.

4 out of 10