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SXSW Film Review


Director: Joseph Kahn, Writers: Joseph Kahn & Mark Palermo A downtrodden 17-year-old girl is sent to detention where she must survive a slasher film killer and save the world in time for prom. Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Dane Cook, Shanley Caswell, Spencer Locke, Aaron David Johnson (World Premiere)

WHO'S IT FOR?: This is especially for those just leaving high school, as for the right person, Detention will play right on cue to chords of pre-adulthood angst. As for everyone else, some appetite for 100% pop sugar is needed for full enjoyment of this movie.


Roaring from the under-appreciated kinetics of his debut motorcycle-actioner Torque, music video director Joseph Kahn has concocted Detention, a delicious MegaGulp of wonderfully true teen satire. Though its imagination speedily transcends genres, bouncing between slasher film, teen comedy, and science fiction with an unending sugar rush, it gives the four challenging years of high school a representation more honest than the ones that can be found in a championed movie like Mean Girls.

While Torque focused on motorcycles (and used even the NOS equivalent for motorcycles), Detention blazes at a speed that’s even faster, through a world where young men and women are completely created and formed by pop culture. Kahn’s characters pop through their dialogue like firecrackers, with their brains corresponding with one another in the forms of text messages, or even more limitedly, (yet more accurately), Tweets. Even when existing in a film that starts in the teen genre, these characters can never be boxed into stereotypes, especially with how honestly Kahn portrays them.

Detention is sharp. Its knowledge of trends is consistently shocking, and its presentation of teenagers is hip, not stock. The hooligans of Detention are exact products of the Twitter-generation. As Kahn himself has said, Detention speaks directly to teenagers. Its dialogue is ruthless and full of verbal frankness that would never make it to honest high school portrayals from Hollywood. The film’s subject matter is never afraid to confront what’s really bugging the minds of technology-happy teenagers who feed off their own narcissism while all declaring that they’re outcasts. Topics like suicide and sex are handled with expert nonchalance, accurately representing the immaturity and lack of wisdom we have at that age concerning such subjects, and how lightly they can be taken. Detention is so on-the-mark that it knows the 90’s are the new 80’s. Like, what, right?

From start to finish, Detention blitzes with a visual style that is always popping with its whipping editing and Star Trek-like lens flare. Even when the story gets a little too hyper with the plot in the third act, Detention is still thoroughly labored, looking much more than just a music video, and looking much more than just something you see in movie theaters often, or really, anywhere else on this planet.



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