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Askew Review 15

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- 2003.  Drama.  99 minutes.  Color.  Rated R. With money and smarts comes power, and in this film by Justin Lin, that’s exactly what this group of Asian-American high school students find out – and then come to abuse. A group of four over-achievers, while scheming to get into the best colleges, go from making some extra cash off of cheat-sheets and pilfering computer stores to dealing drugs, and other more heady crimes.  Greed nudges them further down the path of destruction, which eventually leads to murder.
     In the first half of the film, Lin does a great job of illustrating the interactions of the four main characters played by Parry Shen, Jason J. Tobin, Sung Kang, and Roger Fan.  Despite the mysterious beginning where a body is discovered buried in a back yard, the introduction of the characters is carefree and humorous.  As the film progresses and the characters and situations evolve and darken, viewers remain just as absorbed though the mood severely shifts from lighthearted to intense.
     My only issues with the film are the liberties taken regarding just what rich teenagers can get away with.  Other than a couple of mentions here and there, there are seemingly no parents anywhere in this community that the teens have to deal with.  Conveniently, all of the parents in question are either out of town or simply not acknowledged what so ever.  Also, pockets full of money or not, I have a hard time buying the scene in the Las Vegas casino where all four of the main characters are gambling – two of which couldn’t pass for legal if their lives depended on it. The location chosen to hide the body is also a little questionable.  For four kids as intelligent as these, burying the body in a friend’s back yard just beneath freshly laid sod just doesn’t seem like the best route to go when everything else they’d done up until then was so methodically plotted and performed.  One would think that at least the character that was planning on majoring in biology in college would consider the inevitable “smell” factor.
     An overall enjoyable film that offers both laughs and gasps - provided you can ignore the occasional stretch of reality or practicality.
-Melanie Falina



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