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Case Number 08228

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Havoc: Unrated Version

New Line // 2005 // 92 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // December 16th, 2005

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger gots this phat story to tell you peeps. Bust your 40 and listen up, this is true fo shizzle. (Oh yeah...Anne Hathaway naked!)

The Charge

Some lines are not meant to be crossed.

Opening Statement

Oscar-winning documentary powerhouse Barbara Kopple directs it. Oscar-winning screenwriter Stephen Gaghan wrote it. And Disney darling Anne Hathaway sheds her purity by doffing her clothes and giving oral sex in the front seat before agreeing to a gangster gang-bang in East L.A. What could possibly go wrong in this tale of wigger angst?

Facts of the Case

Anne Hathaway (Brokeback Mountain, Ella Enchanted) is Allison, a bored rich kid who belongs to a "true" "gang" of hardcore rich peeps. Mike Vogel (Supercross) is Stuart, the bored rich kid who leads the "gang" of hardcore rich peeps. Bijou Phillips (Fast Sofa) is Emily, a bored rich kid who wants to prove herself to Allison the Alpha bitch.

One night Stuart, Allison, and company encounter Hector (Freddy Rodríguez, Six Feet Under) in a late night drug deal on 16th Street. Stuart leaves the scene shamed and itching for payback. His friends are glad to be alive. Allison gets a funny feeling deep inside, and feels compelled to visit Hector again. Can rich white wiggas and street-hardened Latino gangsters just get along, or will chaos ensue?

The Evidence

Let's get right to the heart of this direct-to-DVD matter: Anne Hathaway is as naked as you've heard, frequently to boot. Be it natural human sexual curiosity or a sad commentary on American moral fiber, that is pretty much the buzz about this film. Having never seen Hathaway's taffeta-drenched Disney vehicles, I don't have the illicit thrill of innocent icon desecration to fuel my interest. She's there, she's naked, and that's about all I have to say on the issue.

Far more interesting is the Kopple angle (and by proxy, Gaghan's involvement). For those who don't know, Barbara Kopple is practically a deity on the documentary film festival circuit. Confident and highly motivated, she graciously shares her expertise with budding filmmakers. Bearing Witness was a runaway standout among 2005's crop of documentaries, even in the face of fierce and varied competition.

What does all this have to do with Havoc? Unfortunately, not much. Kopple infuses the film with grit and tension, but her authoritative stamp can only take the ride so far. Gaghan's screenplay (which he took over from the original writer after her death) is a morass of cliché, stereotype, and wanderlust. When the film started, it struck me as familiar. It's not that Havoc borrows explicitly from another "white teen angst" film, but that Havoc is so vague and formless as to suggest hints of virtually every other rich fish out of water story. The kids are bored, they borrow from ethnic culture, they do bad things for no good reason—and that's about the whole story. Havoc doesn't tell us where it is going, meanders around on its way there, and ends in the general vicinity of a destination.

Among this film's myriad problems is its wretched gangsta dialogue. It was painful to listen to the words being spoken, predominantly by poser rich kids. That may be part of the point, but it still feels hollow. I don't know how to solve the conundrum of filming a story about poseur kids without seeming poseurish—I just know that Havoc isn't the answer. But I ain't got no bitches back in my crib, yo, so I'm the wrong guy to ask.

A second flub is the "hey, I'm making a documentary!" subplot. Really? Is there a more transparent hack for exploring wigger culture?

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The cast does a fair-to-great job selling roles that are barely tangible. The standout is Freddy Rodríguez, who somehow takes the cardboard of his stereotypic character and molds it into a three dimensional role. Laura San Giacomo (The Stand) is believably out of touch as Allison's beleaguered mother. Bijou Phillips delivers the best performance, living in the background so authentically that she seemed meek and unsure. Anne Hathaway isn't bad, per se, but her character is both ill-defined and burdened by cheesy writing. When she "performed" for the young documentary filmmaker by trying on different voices (right before doffing her top and tweaking her nipples), I cringed from sympathy pains. Vogel is sound but nondescript and the supporting cast is fine, except for Joseph Gordon-Levit's stench as the wanna-be-gansta dope fiend philo-so-phizzle. The acting in sum outclasses the script.

Kopple uses locations and music to powerful effect. At no time do we find ourselves in an unbelievable place. One should dread 16th Street at midnight; we do, so the movie delivers the edge it needs to. The visual flair is decently captured on the rich, detailed DVD transfer which is marred by excessive edge enhancement in a few scenes, some pixilation, and an uneven palette in dark scenes. Contrast is strong and the gritty look comes through cleanly.

There is hardly a need for surround sound. The mixes give the ghetto blasters more oomph, but surround effects are almost nonexistent. The mix is clean, and mainly consists of dialogue in front, rap music in the back. Wit da hoes.

Closing Statement

Though it has an array of big names involved, Havoc is more aimless antic than actual havoc. I can see what Kopple wanted to achieve with this film, and it seems like it would be a good transition from documentary to fiction. Perhaps a better script and a sound story arc would give Kopple the material to produce a gripping fiction film.

The Verdict

This court sentences these kids to attend 4-H fundraising drives and donate their mad money to the local children's hospital.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 89
Audio: 82
Extras: 0
Acting: 75
Story: 35
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: New Line
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Unrated
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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