Assassination of a High School President (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 93 minutes
Starring: Mischa Barton, Reece Thompson, Bruce Willis
Director: Brett Simon
These movies are right up my alley. I love a good film noir movie. And this one fits the bill - it's set in (duh) high school and follows the socially inept Bobby Funke, a wannabe, gum-chewing sophomore journalist. He's looking for a big story and when the SATs mysteriously go missing, Funke decides that he's the one to investigate and discover who's behind the whole mess. When he discovers mostly circumstantial evidence that points the finger towards the school's star athlete, he decides to charge head on with his accusatory article. But after becoming the BMOC more evidence pops up that threatens his credible story and points towards a much larger conspiracy.
This is a classic detective, film noir story. Even down to the cheesy narration by the lead ("Clara was one tough cookie. All I wanted was a taste."), and instead of smoking constantly, chewing gum is the norm for this gum shoe (yes, pun intended). It's a lot like Brick (which I've mentioned before), but instead of deadly serious, this movie has a bite and dark sense of humor. It's never ashamed to "go there," whether that be showing a school shooting (although done with a paintball gun, nevertheless it is chilling) and the hooligans in the school are more or less treated like prisoners, a metaphor that isn't lost on me.
Reece Thompson, whom I've enjoyed in another indie high school dramedy, Rocket Science, plays Bobby perfectly. You know he's in way over his head but thinks he has everything under control. He finds his new super stud status as something inevitable for him even though it's manufactured. He's such a dork, though and everyone around him is super cool. Most of the supporting cast are pretty good and deserve some credit for creating a relatively realistic prep school setting. Of course there's a femme fatale in this movie and despite all of her bad PR, Mischa Barton does a pretty good job of playing every boy's dream girl both as enigmatic and approachable. She's both an imposing figure in her scenes and also simply charming. I'm not saying she deserves awards, but Barton is a pretty good actress. And Bruce Willis plays the school principle pretty awesomely (yes that's a word). He's a war vet who doesn't give a hoot about the students, just as long as they're obedient and don't disrupt his domain.
It's darkly funny and skewers the power regime among the students and teachers. But this isn't a satire or assessment of school cliques, it's just a good mystery set within the four walls of the hell that is high school. It's not a bust-your-gut type of movie, but you will be grinning the whole time at the clever dialogue and hilarious antics of the main characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and it's too bad it never really caught on. I'm sure it will become legendary among fans of this genre (much like Election). But this movie was made in 2007 (when Barton was still fairly relevant) and the distributor of the movie filed for bankruptcy, so it never saw an actual theatrical release. It's finally out on DVD this week and it's a gem. If you're looking for a good mystery and a dark comedy, this is definitely one to hold onto!
Rating: Buy It!