State's EvidenceReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 03/05/07 16:51:17
Teen suicide is a serious, complicated business, but you’d never know it from the likes of “State’s Evidence,” a drama that reduces violence, depression, teen angst, and mass murder to shallow triteness. This is not only one of the most empty-headed movies ever made on the subject, but it might also be one of the most annoying and offensive, too.We open with a flimsy gimmick: 16-year-old Scott (Douglas Smith) will videotape his entire day, ending with his suicide. The knowledge of his impending death will set him free, allowing him to hit on the school slut (which somehow works) or sass back at the imposing teacher (he somehow gets away with it). He’ll ask everyone at school what they’d miss most about him if he were to die. And, speaking into the camera, he talks to the psychologists he knows will be studying the tape after his death, promising to give them no clear answers - they’d have to come up with their own conclusions based on what they see here.
When he announces his plan to his friends, they go through the Three Stages of Movie Ridiculousness. One: they think his idea, like, totally rocks. Two: they realize he’s serious and try to talk him out of it. Three: they’re so taken by his notions of setting yourself free from consequences that they all decide to join in on the plan. Yes, even the kids that were perfectly happy in every way think it’d be cool to kill themselves after running around with a video camera for a while. For a movie so obsessed with getting to the heart of a genuine problem, “State’s Evidence” is sorely lacking in the plausibility department.
Anyway, these six kids (among them a woefully miscast Alexa Vega, whose soft-spoken nice girl character would never actually be best pals with the goth chick with the anarchy symbol tattooed on her arm) run around for a while with cameras, then review the footage late at night. (The set-up is that they’re videotaping themselves as they’re watching their old footage, editing it all together on the fly; it’s a format which winds up looking like a crummy flashback episode of some 80s sitcom.) It’s here that the teens discover each others deepest thoughts and complain about each others last-day choices (one kid opts to visit a hooker).
The rest of the plot involves the videotape of Patrick (Kris Lemche), who starts the film as your average nice guy and ends it as a racist/psychotic killer/child rapist. The transformation is laughable at best, thanks to a mediocre performance mixed with pitiful writing that strains to find some causes for school massacres and winds up delivering a whiny kid who talks of being locked in a struggle between his “higher nature” and his “lower nature,” ultimately whining how “I’ve unlocked some sort of demon within me” that he can’t control.
The idea, then, is that every teenager in America is one goofy suggestion away from completely snapping and going on a killing spree. The script then ends with long speeches from its characters in which they warn parents (and Congress!) to take notice and pay more attention to their kids. Yet if suicide and murder are caused the way the movie thinks it is, there’s nothing a parent can do. Heck, we even get a concerned parent, but her efforts are for naught - why the bitter cries of “wake up, America!” in the finale if we get adult characters who are indeed awake the whole time?
The film then gleefully ignores any mention of depression, which is what the professionals often call “something of a big deal” in terms of killing yourself. Instead, it goes for cheap gimmickry and a fairly exploitative crassness to mimic deep thought, but it never works. The sincerity here is so thin you could use it as tracing paper.
Meanwhile, the film itself is fairly lousy in its own right, badly acted (minus a great turn from Beth Broderick as Scott’s worried mother) and poorly staged. The idea, of course, is that we get to see the story unfold through the eyes of these teens and their cameras. Directors Benjamin Louis and Mark Brown (Brown also wrote the screenplay - a far cry from his days writing “Barbershop” and “Two Can Play That Game,” although that may explain the lack of awareness throughout this movie) seem too hesitant to let the entire film play out in such a seemingly experimental manner, and so intercut with the kids’ footage are shots of the kids videotaping themselves.It’s a choice that only distracts the audience, allowing them to realize how shabby and under-thought the whole thing is. “State’s Evidence” is so contemptible in its laziness that even when the movie does present the random good point, we just don’t care. It tosses us shock value in the hopes we’ll misread it as serious filmmaking. Instead, all we do is roll our eyes and snicker.
|© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.|