Havoc (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
Havoc is a vision of the differences between the real world of urban
Latino gangstas and the bored mainstream teens who emulate
gangsta styles in order to impress their peers and fight off
boredom. The dramatic conflict centers around two girls from upper
middle class families who become involved with the tattooed roughnecks
of the barrios. The story begins with an antagonistic conflict on beach
turf, then follows the suburbanites into East L.A. for a dangerous drug-buying expedition
which tempts the rich girls with the macho allure of the bad boys.
Lust and curiosity eventually
lead the girls back into the barrio, where they ultimately seek to
join the Latino gang. Their initiation rite is basically a sexed-up
and drug-addled version of spin the
bottle which, of course, creates disastrous consequences for many of the
Many of the story's main storylines end unresolved. The Latino gang leader is marched off in cuffs to face a questionable rape charge, but his ultimate fate is not shown. One of the girls tries to commit suicide and (presumably, but not certainly) fails. The gangs meet one last time, and shots are fired, but that particular scene takes place in a blackout, and the result is left to our imaginations.
The film is driven by an intense gangsta soundtrack and a dark, grungy look, with many scenes occurring in alleys and backyards at night, or in dimly-lit clubs and hotel rooms. The gloomy, threatening ambiance is meant to accentuate the sense of danger felt by the "fishes out of water" when they leave their comfortable, expensive homes and come face to face with real gangstas. The sub-text of the film is the struggle of young people to achieve a sense of belonging, and the extreme lengths they will go to find a peer group to supply the kind of familial support and acceptance that they don't get at home or from their immediate peer group.
The director is new to fictional films, having previously established a reputation for documentaries, but the team which created Havoc was not without a heavy lifter. The final draft was written by Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA for his script for Soderbergh's Traffic, and was once offered the coveted job of adapting The DaVinci Code. Gaghan actually finished off the Havoc script after the original author was killed in a private plane accident. This film, despite the Gaghan contribution, is nowhere near an award-winning standard. It is basically the 2005 version of those 1950's films in which the sweet cheerleaders in bobbysox would ditch their quarterback boyfriends to hang out with some guys with leather jackets and duck-tail haircuts. You remember those films? The hoods and the jocks would come to blows. Meanwhile, the former girlfriends of the hoods would make life miserable for the cheerleaders who stole their boyfriends. All of those same elements are present in Havoc, albeit updated for the new millennium.
Under normal circumstances, I would have told you that the film is annoyingly predictable, especially in light of the expectations generated by the standards of an Oscar-winning author, but there are not normal circumstances. One particularly trite device takes the film beyond the status of mere annoyance and places it squarely within the pantheon of flat-out irritation. While all the events unfold, a student filmmaker from the suburban group is making his own documentary film, in which he asks the usual Dr. Phil questions of his contemporaries and gets an assortment of jaded, cavalier, and shallow responses. I'm not sure if the documentary-within-a-film device is more hackneyed than the evil twin, but even if not, it must surely edge out amnesia, last minute rescues, and evil dwarves for the runner-up spot in the Miss Cinema Cliché pageant. It almost goes without saying that the evil dwarves get the congeniality award.
The biggest news about this film is not what is in it, but what is not. In the past year or so, the prevailing internet meme has been that the uncut version of this film had an Anne Hathaway masturbation scene with some surprisingly explicit close-ups, and a scene where she walks around naked showing everything, front and rear. Did these scenes ever exist? I am not in a position to say. Are they on the unrated DVD? Not at all. Everything on the DVD has already been widely circulated on the internet. In terms of nudity, the exposure includes only female breasts and male buttocks. In terms of sexual activity, it suggests copulation of various types and portrays those acts inexplicitly, in the manner of many R-rated films. At one point, a threesome scene seems to include penetration in both of Bijou Phillips's lower orifices, but Bijou's lower body is obscured by another man's head. Nothing is shown explicitly. There is an inordinate amount of drug consumption and foul language, but we've heard all that before. In fact, if this "unrated" cut were to be submitted to the MPAA, it might earn an NC-17, but I would not be surprised at all if it were to receive an R.
Tuna's notes in yellow
Havoc is a direct-to-vid which was anticipated eagerly because of rumored nudity from Anne Hathaway and Bijou Phillips, exposure which really never materialized at the expected level.
It is nearly impossible to talk about the plot without writing spoilers, so you will want to skip the next bit if you plan on seeing it.
Anne Hathaway is the alpha female in a gang of white yuppie wannabe gangstas in a wealthy yuppie haven, Pacific Palisades. She is dating the leader of the gang, and her best friend is Bijou Phillips. They claim to be adopting the gangsta lifestyle in response to ineffectual parents and out of boredom with urban wealth. Hathaway's boyfriend takes them into an East LA barrio to score some weed and tries to prove how tough he is by challenging the dealer he buys from. He loses the toughness battle when a gun is pulled on him, causing him to pee his pants. This episode so impresses Hathaway that she has to return and get to know the gang.
Later, she brings Phillips with her, and elects to become a member of the gang. They agree to succumb to the initiation process after a lot of drinking and smoking. In this ritual, each rolls the dice once, and then sleeps with the number of men that comes up. Hathaway rolls a one, and then chickens out part way through. Phillips rolls a three and doesn't want to lose face by backing out, until the three try to make a sandwich of her. The next day, Phillips accuses them of rape. Hathaway knows the truth, and eventually spills it, but by then, the guys accused have been arrested, their home boys head for Pacific Palisades to make sure the girls can't testify, and the yuppie gangsters head for East LA to wipe out the Chicanos. Neither finds what they are looking for, but see each other at an intersection. The screen goes black and we hear a gunshot. Roll credits.
... creating one of the most unsatisfying endings I can remember.
The film's frustratingly ambiguous ending was only one problem from a list so long that I will only cover the lowlights:
|This is probably intended as the 2005 version of the classic "poor little rich girls turn to bad boys for kicks" plot. The major difference for me is that, in the exploitation version of this theme, the girls are innocent, and the story is told as a cautionary tale. In this version, the only possible conclusion you can draw is that every human being is a complete asshole, from ineffectual parents through rebellious teens to East LA gang members. Undoubtedly, many of you will want to see this film for the Anne Hathaway nudity, but frankly, I am sorry I did.|
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