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Bang, Bang, You're Dead
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by Natasha Theobald

4 stars

This film easily could have devolved into after school special-dom, but, while there are some pointed lessons being taught, the film cares more about compelling drama than about preaching or prodding. The title refers to a play of the same name which premiered in April of 1999, in Eugene, Oregon. It has since been performed in schools and communities across the nation, countless times, and many of these are highlighted over the end credits. The film is about one production of the play and the lives of those involved in it.

Trevor Adams (Ben Foster), referred to as "trashcan" at school, has been allowed to return to school following an attempt, the year before, to set off an explosive device with the intent of harming certain members of the football team. His return to school is noted by everyone, including the faculty, students, the principal, and, in particular, the cops who search bags by the metal detectors at the front door. He is being carefully watched, and it only adds to the pressure of the pain the event is causing in his family and throughout the larger community. No one wants to know him -- almost. He separates himself, seeing the world through the lens of his camera, capturing pictures of the reality which faces him day in and day out.

Val Duncan (Tom Cavanaugh of "Ed") is the kind of teacher who is desperate to make a difference in the lives of his students. He decides to produce the play "Bang Bang You're Dead," in which a young man is confronted by his parents and students from the high school cafeteria, all of whom he shot and killed. Val thinks it would be a great idea for Trevor to play the lead character of Josh, to explore the feelings of rage he might have in common with him, as well as the differences between them. He also enlists the help of a new girl in school, Jenny (Jane McGregor), who tends to think for herself and is unwilling to accept the group renunciation of Trevor.

Jenny is his only friend until the Trogs, led by Sean (Randy Harrison of "Queer as Folk") seek him out. They recognize the anger in him and take him out into the middle of the country to shoot at alcohol containers and blow things up with him. Trevor is torn between the influences created by the disparate groups grasping for him, from the theater kids to the outcasts, and the audience is never certain which path he will take at any given time.

It is this very unpredictability that lets this film find reality and life. Trevor is an honestly confused kid being torn in different directions and, from one moment to the next, even he doesn't know what he might do or what he is capable of doing. We also are treated to portions of the play throughout, as the kids rehearse it, and we see Trevor finding Josh in himself. Ben Foster is brilliant in both respects, showing us the pain and pride of Trevor and the difficulty of trying to grapple with the emotions which surface as he tries to play Josh. Seeing the last part of the play at the end of the movie brings it all together and is truly moving. Then, as I mentioned, other productions of the play are shown over the credits, and seeing real kids in it really brings home what high school students face every day when they show up for school. The movie doesn't try to answer all of the questions it asks, something they mention to be true about the play as well, but there is a feeling that awareness and proactive choices are a good start, at least, in approaching the problem.

I have to say, as a parent, that this movie is a little terrifying. I can hope that things will change enough in a decade that my kid won't face the horrors of this kind of high school experience, but I am not naive. The truth is that no one should have to experience it. Hopefully this movie and the play can have some part in making that truth known.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8265&reviewer=317
originally posted: 10/13/03 17:18:15
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User Comments

6/21/14 Niki This film is the best! 5 stars
9/26/13 Mary Beth I watched this film as part of my psychology class. ralistic, range of emotions to observe. 5 stars
12/11/11 Misty A. teens must see! 4 stars
7/22/10 Jayy I loved it. To date, it's one of my favorite movies. 5 stars
6/03/10 Alyssa As a junior in highschool this movie was both terrifying and moving to see. 5 stars
10/24/08 Garzun Best film I've seen yet. 5 stars
4/09/08 Jessicaca Aloicaca it was rather swell 4 stars
5/08/06 Oldine almost reality 5 stars
1/08/06 damn worht your time 5 stars
1/04/06 me better than fight club 5 stars
8/10/05 graym good rent it 5 stars
6/11/05 Kristen This movie is the best, all schools should watch this. 5 stars
4/19/05 Serisha Govender Better than Lord of The Rings 5 stars
4/19/05 Serisha Govender It was probably the deepest and most brilliant film i've ever watched! 5 stars
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  13-Oct-2002 (R)



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