The Boys Club

Director: John Fawcett

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The Boys Club (1997) is about three obnoxious teenage boys who have a clubhouse way out in the woods, a tumble-down patched up on the inside with playboy centerfolds.

There's a teacher's strike, so they have nothing to do but hang out all day. It's hard to warm up to these little jerkwads, but after a while the reasonably good acting & the not-terrible script render them very sympathetic.

The Boys ClubThe basic premise is an old one for cinema, & was old even when Hayley Mills had a similar adventure in Whistle Down the Wind (1961).

The boys bike out to their clubhouse & find a wounded man holed up, with a gunshot in his leg. He points a gun at them, makes a few scary demands, then admits he hasn't any bullets & needs their help.

He claims to be a police officer & shows them his badge. But it's his fellow cops who are trying to kill him, so it isn't possible to bring in the police. The boys reluctantly decide to help him, beginning with cleaning & dressing his wound, & conspiring to obtain booze for the guy.

As he partially recovers over the next few days, he becomes a demented mentor for the boys, especially Kyle (Dominic Zamprogna) whose own father is a possibly well-meaning trying to raise two sons alone, but is ultimately a wildly incompetent dad who can't be relied on for squat.

Kyle's dad is played by Nicholas Campbell, the star of criminalist series The Di Vinci Inquest, & often seen in David Cronenberg films. He's a fine Canadian actor & the primary reason I was interested in seeing this film. I was a bit disappointed to find him so underutilized here, but in his few scenes, he absolutely captures the role of a struggling inept father with subtle tragic conviction, part son of a bitch, but totally understandable.

Kyle's companions on this adventure are Brad (Stuart Stone) the sort-of-a-nurd who would like not to be involved in any of this but rise to the occasion, & Eric (Devon Sawa) prominading like a self-important bully but useless in an emergency. We don't get to know either of them nearly as well as Kyle, but there's a sense that none of them are very well parented. Thus their susceptibility to a loony mentor who wants them to help him get drunk, get ammunition, & steal him a car, becomes all too plausible.

The wounded Luke Cooper is played close to brilliantly by Chris Penn. Even when he gives the kids the worst advice imaginable, & talks them into thefts & other sorry actions, it's easy to see why the boys would be charmed by him, & slow to give up their illusions about what kind of man he so obviously is.

Kyle has a crush on Megan (Amy Stewart). Much of the film follows the exploits of fourteen year olds being fourteen year olds, & the pursuit of romance is endearing & real. When Megan becomes the focal figure in revealing the true character of Luke, the film quite suddenly shifts from peculiar & worrisome, to outright horrific.

I had to grit my teeth to get through some of it, as it's hard to find the menacing of children all that entertaining. But the story is definitely worth the harrowing moments.

We've seen just enough family dysfunction, without pummelling the issue, that it becomes credible that these kids would end up facing a world of murder & gunplay keeping it secret from parents or any adult. They had so many opportunities to go about it all less dangerously, but anyone who expects fourteen year old boys to behave rationally doesn't know any.

Kyle's older brother Jake (Jarred Blancard) is just about the best character though not central. He's a juvenile delinquent, angry at the world, but hey, his mother's dead, his father's an inept grouch who doesn't know how to be a parent.

Jake's world is just sad enough that his delinquency has more pathos than malice to it. When it is his unfortunate ass that gets in the worst of all the bad, bad juju of The Boys Club, it's up to Kyle, Brad, & Eric to save Jake's life, in the face of incredible danger. I was genuinely terrified for Jake's sake.

The situation that develops isn't always credible, it's fiction that smacks of fiction, but the reactions of the kids once they find themselves in an action-movie pickle are suprisingly realistic. What started as a portrait of three abnoxious teens opens into a convincing tale of how boys who really aren't bad kids become such troublemakers, not to mention how girls manage sometimes to survive intimidation.

The overlay of action-thriller keeps it from being merely a movie-of-the-week about families in crisis. So while it may be no great work of art, The Boys Club is solid film entertainment.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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