Planned suburbia, teenage wasteland: "Tomorrow’s city... today." The scene is a freshly unwrapped Colorado town where the transplanted kids, left to cramped recreational centers and half-finished condos, edge toward a homegrown apocalypse. The main juvenile (Michael Kramer) comes home swollen from a fight, his mother deals with it by giving him five bucks ("combat pay"), in his room he nurses himself with ham-sized earphones and Cheap Trick lyrics. Bosch’s Hell is projected on the classroom slideshow for the walking-drugstore "lost cause" (Tom Fergus) to trip to, the veteran rabble-rouser (Matt Dillon) leads the sessions of moody time-wasting: swilling vodka, target practice with a filched revolver, lounging in the Carter-era version of Rebel Without a Cause’s dilapidated mansion. The Cars, The Ramones and Van Halen are the beats of choice (Hendrix is "old crap"), Cadillac lots and tennis courts pockmark the landscape but there’s still plenty of space to reflect the mass of pubescent alienation. One wide shot of the prairie -- two couples on opposite sides of the frame dwarfed by lead-grey clouds and slanting dawn light -- is worthy of Malick, though Jonathan Kaplan truly comes alive in the blazing climax, when his experience in urban guerilla (Truck Turner) comes into play. The PTA meeting goes nowhere while adolescent insurrection brews outside and, before Helen Lovejoy can cry "Won’t somebody please think of the children," the parents are chained inside the school building and Lord of the Flies is being enacted on the parking lot. Kaplan’s j’accuse is scrawled on a tenement complex’s brick wall ("wide streets, narrow minds"), yet the passage of time has to many morphed protest into nostalgia. Maybe it’s the view of a generation's extinguishing anarchy, seen from the back of a correctional bus headed into the Eighties. Cinematography by Andrew Davis. With Harry Northup, Pamela Ludwig, Vincent Spano, Andy Romano, Ellen Geer, Richard Jamison, and Julia Pomeroy.
--- Fernando F. Croce