Despite the high-powered credits — notably Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple (HARLAN COUNTY, U.S.A.) and Oscar-winning screenwriter Stephen Gaghan (TRAFFIC) — this slight cautionary tale about slumming rich kids is a minor effort.
Poor, neglected little LA rich girls Emily (Bijou Phillips) and Allie (Anne Hathaway, making a radical departure from her family-friendly turns in the PRINCESS DIARIES films) and their equally privileged boyfriends, Toby (Mike Vogel) and Samy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), belong to a ghetto-style gang, with "style" being the operative word. They talk and dress like gangstas, listen to rap music and throw gang signs in photos, but they're surrounded by all the perks money can buy, from expensive cars to top-line drugs. None of which makes them happy, which is why they cruise around looking for trouble and eventually find some. The four take a trip to East LA in search of dope and score from some tough-looking Chicano guys, but when Toby decides to show off by accusing them of shorting him, the situations turns very ugly, very fast. Toby is humiliated, but the teens escape physically unscathed. Allie, whose parents (Laura San Giacomo, Michael Biehn) are too preoccupied with their own troubles to see that their bright, directionless daughter is drifting towards real trouble, is the most deeply affected by the adrenaline rush of real danger. She sneaks back downtown and tries to befriend Hector (Freddy Rodriguez), the most approachable of the gang-bangers, and later returns with Emily and two other girlfriends; they all wind up at a party and once again get home safely. But the volatile mix of pampered white girls and street thugs inevitably combusts, dragging the girls' friends and families into an ugly swamp of class-based assumptions and explosive violence.
Based on a screenplay written by 17-year-old Jessica Kaplan in 1995 and later rewritten by Gaghan, Kopple's fast-paced look at lifestyles of the bored and reckless bypassed theatrical release and went directly to video and DVD more than two years after it went into production in 1993. Kaplan died a few months before it started shooting, in a high-profile small plane accident: The plane, piloted by Kaplan's uncle, apparently lost power in midair and plunged into an apartment complex in the Fairfax district, killing everyone aboard and setting the building on fire. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh