Uwantme2KILLhim? film review
Jaime Blackley, Toby Regbo, Joanne Progatt, Liz White, Jaime Winstone, Mingus Johnston, Stephanie Leonidas
Alliance Films/Tribeca Films
CRITIC’S RATING: *** stars (out of 4 stars)
Director Andrew Douglas’s cyberspace teen crime caper Uwantme2KILLhim? is refreshingly imaginative and quite compelling in its suspenseful skin. Usually a majority of intriguing dramas involving wayward high schoolers or elusive local criminals and terrorists or the befuddled law enforcement authorities that try to crack the escalating proceedings incriminating disenfranchised youths end up more often than not following the pattern of a standard cable TV movie spouting off pat and predictable conclusions.
Thankfully, Uwantme2KILLhim? skillfully works for the movie audience’s undivided attention as it teasingly tosses its share of provocative twists and turns until the viewers realized that they have been challenged and taken down another tricky path. Gripping, hypnotic and unassuming, Uwantme2KILLhim? takes its teen angst-ridden tendencies to a whole new deceptive level. Additionally, the presence of internet usage and social media (this young generation’s main coping mechanism with expression and communication) plays a vital role in the attachment and disconnection of teenager’s emotional pleasure and pain.
The slick and cunning Uwantme2KILLhim? is actually based on true events in a complicated cat-and-mouse game between a couple of teen schoolboys harboring rather explosive imaginations. Screenwriter Mike Walden (working from a Vanity Fair article as penned by Judy Bachrach) does an effectively sufficient job at structuring the devilishly bizarre story where the constant lines of reality and fantasy are blurred therefore making the mounting tension from various angles all the more saucy. Douglas’s direction is inviting and stimulating. The steady performances, particularly from the mischievous leading lads Jamie Blackley and Toby Regbo as the film’s youthful problematic protagonists, are solidly riveting in disillusionment.
The film starts off in the aftermath of a deadly stabbing as conducted by the usually affable 16 year-old Mark Turner (Blackley). When taken into custody and questioned, Mark assures the female police interrogator that his misguided actions behind the stabbing were for “the greater good” and labels himself a “hero” in the process. The film then resorts to skipping back and forth from his current-day jailhouse confession prior to his freedom days as we learn in elaborate detail what led to Mark’s incarceration in the first place.
The setting is North London in the spring of 2003. Mark enjoys his popularity in school and even has a decent and easy-going relationship with his parents at home. However, the one main event that Mark looks forward to more than anything is exchanging pleasantries on the computer live with an online participant in a pretty blonde named Rachel Bradley (Jaime Winstone). Mark is clearly infatuated by the unseen cute correspondent (although she has posted up her headshot as a visual reference). Rachel shares her woes with Mark about how much her abusive boyfriend Kevin McNeil (Mingus Johnston) beats her to no end. Naturally this infuriates Mark as Rachel pours on the sordid details of her beatings with a monstrous Kevin at the helm.
Soon, Rachel asks a special favor of the smitten Mark beyond listening to her sad tales of physical neglect from her corrosive companion Kevin. Specifically, Rachel wants Mark to befriend and look after her younger brother John (Regbo) who happens to be in one of his classes at school. Both acknowledge that John is “weird” as the resident outcast but Rachel insists that it would be worth Mark’s benefit to look out for her ostracized sibling. There is no doubt that Mark would not oblige his computerized cupcake.
So as Mark introduces himself to John formally and bond over discussions that mainly involved the jeopardized Rachel and her bombastic boyfriend Kevin, things start to look up for the new buddies. However, Mark is told by several of his classmates that hanging around with the weirdo John Bradley s not exactly in his best interest and could definitely ruining his polished reputation within the classroom walls. The gossip mill runs with the damaging tidbit that John’s stepfather is a terrorist…another valid reason for Mark to keep his distance from the picked-upon nerd. Still, Mark cannot dismiss John because he is, after all, the kid brother of his computer screen ” digital dreamgirl” Rachel. Besides, in Mark’s eyes John does not seem like a bad apple after all–at least not yet anyway.
Things will gradually become dark and dour for Mark when he collides with an angered Kevin on the computer as he attempted to contact Rachel. The raging Kevin warns the startled Mark to leave Rachel alone otherwise both she and him will suffer the ultimate consequences. This fuels the hatred that Mark already has reserved for the menacing Kevin. When Mark does not hear from either Rachel or John for a long period of time he gets quite antsy. In finally tracking down John, Mark is told of the shocking news in Rachel’s sudden suicide for which they automatically believe was at the horrific hands of Kevin. The beast grows inside of Mark as the killing instinct looks to burst at the seams. Mark and John start to entertain the dastardly ways they want to eradicate the brutal Kevin as the hatred festers. Also, a mysterious and sexy female M15 agent (who also happens to be unseen on Mark’s computer screen and posts a headshot photo of herself muck like his late beloved Rachel) instructs the distraught to stay away from gaining revenge on Kevin McNeil and revealing that the real threat at hand is his partner-in-crime John Bradley.
Now here is the kicker: the sultry governmental goddess places the burden on Mark’s shoulders to kill John in order to prevent the potential Columbine-copy cat killing spree at his school with his terrorist stepfather possible pulling the strings to motivate him. Does Mark have what it takes to kill John especially after his brief estrangement from him? Mark could not be the heroic figure for one delicious-looking damsel-in-distress Rachel so can he redeem himself and look important in the eyes of another sensual yet older woman?
The whole scenario involving Mark’s mental madness into the death of a computer crush and now the guilt-ridden but necessary reaction for savagery against a classmate colleague certain elevates Uwantme2KILLhim? as a twisted treat of teen torment and acceptance. The film, although it would not be advisable to spoil the ultimate twist in the plot, resourcefully serves as a personality-driven puzzle for all the parties that may or may not seem who they are in conception. The cautionary commentary on the online usage of the internet as a convenient “informational drug” (and not social human interaction) certainly contributes a telling and toxic message in the mainstream culture of today’s teen alienation and dependency on stand-by technology–both beneficial and bad.
NOTE: Focus of New York film critic Frank Ochieng is a member of: