out of Five
Running time: 85
Like Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen, only with money, this is an engaging and frequently tense teen drama with a full-on performance from Anne Hathaway.
What's it all about?
Anne Hathaway plays Allison, a rich high school student from LA's wealthy Pacific Palisades suburb, who is part of a gang of bored gangsta wannabes. Accompanying her boyfriend on a misguided attempt to buy drugs, Allison meets real-life gang member Hector (Freddy
Rodriguez) and finds herself emotionally drawn to him.
Hathaway is terrific as Allison, torpedoing her squeaky clean Princess Diaries image by smoking, swearing, doing drugs and getting topless, all within the first five minutes. However, there are a couple of moments where the mask slips and Hathaway brilliantly reveals her character's loneliness and sadness beneath all the attitude.
The supporting cast are superb, particularly Bijou Phillips as Allison's trashy best friend and Freddy Rodriguez, who convincingly plays Hector as a decent human being, despite the whole drug-dealing gang member thing. Respect is also due to the person who cast Laura San Giacomo in a cameo as Hathaway's mother (the resemblance is uncanny).
Documentary director Barbara Kopple includes several interesting, off-beat and unexpected scenes. There's also a hilarious scene in which Allison and Emily try to smoke crack and a nail-bitingly tense sequence set in a motel room.
However, some aspects of the film don't quite work, in particular a half-hearted, unnecessary and swiftly abandoned stab at the documentary format, courtesy of a fellow student (Matt O'Leary) filming everything with a video camera. There's an astonishingly inept, incredibly frustrating ending that comes close to ruining the entire film and cast members Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Biehn are wasted in underwritten roles.
In short, Havoc is a superbly acted, sharply observed and frequently tense drama that's worth seeing for Anne Hathaway's performance.