J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

uwantme2killhim: Kids Like to Chat

In 2003, a sixteen year-old kid from Manchester should have been on Friendster. Instead, Mark is getting touchy feely in an anonymous chat-room.  That always leads to bad things in the movies and this based-on-a-true-story teen angst-thriller is no exception. Once again, the internet apparently turns a clean-cut popular kid into a killer in Andrew Douglas’s awkwardly titled uwantme2killhim? (trailer here), produced by Bryan “X-Men” Singer, which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

Mark, the shaggy-haired jock, pretty much has his pick of the girls at school, while John basically serves as the campus punching bag. However, Mark agrees to take John under his wing when he discovers he is the younger brother of Rachel, his online girlfriend. He has never met her face to face because she and her abusive boyfriend, Kevin McNeil are in the witness protection program, which makes perfect sense to Mark.

Since webcams were not such a common accessory at the time, Mark falls for her solely on the basis of her photo and her sub-literate chat dialogue. Unfortunately, when the thuggish McNeil kills Rachel out of jealousy, it thoroughly destabilizes Mark, leaving him susceptible to the ominous offers of the MI-5 agent supposedly monitoring McNeil.

Right, you are probably already smelling a rat and you will not be not far wrong if you can think of a tasty fish they like to fry up in Louisiana. The only real questions are who is playing Mark and why? Mike Walden’s dramatic adaptation of Judy Bachrach’s Vanity Fair article does its best to pepper red herrings throughout, but the in media res structure does not help to build any real suspense.

It is rather compelling to watch Jamie Blackley transform Mark from a big man on campus to an anti-social head case. However, Douglas (best known for helming the Amityville Horror remake) is not able to convincingly convey the sort of slow frogs-boiling-water process necessary to undermine his previously well-adjusted psyche. Uwantetc also boasts an intriguing supporting cast, including Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggart (Lady Mary’s maid, Anna) as DI Sarah Clayton and Jaime Winstone as Rachel, but it never gives them much to do.

When was the last time the internet served as an agent of progress on film? Clearly, the movie business is still holding a grudge for all the business presumably lost to file-sharers. Despite the not so shocking plot twists, the character’s psychological dynamics are still provocative and ultimately rather sad and disturbing. Unfortunately, Douglas and Walden were apparently determined to maximize the film’s timeliness with their compulsive attention to British surveillance practices. Yet, the events of the film could ironically support even more extensive and pervasive online monitoring policies. An earnest misfire, uwantme2killhim? opens this Friday (3/14) in Los Angeles at the Laemmle NoHo 7.

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