Friday, 18 May 2018

November Criminals (3 Stars)

Something has gone wrong with Chloe Grace Moretz's career. A few years ago she was the it girl, someone who was obviously a rising star. From the age of seven she was a successful child star, making three or more films a year. She first came to the general public's attention playing the foul-mouthed teenage super-hero Hit Girl in 2010, when she was only 13. She went on to star in even bigger roles, including "Let me in", the remake of Stephen King's "Carrie" and the critically acclaimed "Clouds of Sils Maria". Maybe it was the box office failure of "Clouds of Sils Maria" that was the turning point. After that she was given mostly smaller roles. She seemed to be getting back to star status with two successful films in a row, "The 5th Wave" and "Bad Neighbours 2", but both films were savaged by the critics. Now she's crashed. Her last three films have gone straight-to-video, which is a death knell for anyone's career. Even worse, the films are hardly available on disc. "Brain on Fire" (2016) has only been released on DVD in China and Hungary. "I love you, Daddy" (2017) hasn't been released on DVD anywhere, so it's more accurate to say that it's been released straight-to-trashcan. "November Criminals" has been released on DVD in Germany and a few other European countries, but without an American or English release it's destined to be forgotten.

Added to this, "November Criminals" has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. No films ever score that badly. Even "The Room" has 26%. Is this really one of the worst films ever made?

The answer is a clear No. It's not a great film, but I've seen much worse. The story is interesting – the script is co-written by Steven Knight – and all the actors know how to act. There's just something intangible missing. There's nothing about the film that excites me.

The film is a love story, a coming-of-age story and a murder mystery. Addison Schacht and Phoebe Zeleny are classmates, both 17, both the children of rich parents. The school they go to is filled with rich kids. It's the better side of town. Both have applied to go to university. Addison is an above average student, but Phoebe is brilliant, so they'll be going different ways.

One evening they visit a coffee shop where Addison's best friend Kevin (also a classmate) has a part time job. Phoebe tells Addison she wants to have sex because she doesn't want to go to university as a virgin and she wants her first time to be with another virgin. That's a shock to Addison, because until now they've only been friends, but he doesn't say No. Would any 17-year-old virgin refuse an offer like that? They drive to Phoebe's house to do it. 15 minutes later there's a news report about a shooting in the coffee shop. Kevin is dead.

Understandably, this puts Addison in a crisis. He knows that if he hadn't been in such a rush to lose his virginity he would still have been in the cafe and he might have been able to stop it happening.

Even worse is that the police call it a gang-related shooting. This is a euphemism for "There's nothing we can do about it". Kevin was from an African American family, one of the few black students in the school, so the assumption is that if a black boy gets shot it must be because he was in a gang. Addison knows that this wasn't the case, so he begins to investigate the case himself, with Phoebe's help. At the beginning Addison and Phoebe remain platonic, despite having had sex once, but as the investigations continue their feelings for one another deepen.

This is only a film for fans of Chloe Grace Moretz. That includes me. If you admire her as an actress, don't be put off by the Rotten Tomatoes reviewers. It's not that bad.

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