FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Considering the recent spate of teen violence and shootings, "Pups", the sophomore feature from filmmaker Ash ("Bang"), arrives with a definite timeliness.
But this tale of a pair of teen-age bank robbers plays too much like a juvenile version of "Dog Day Afternoon", and anyone old enough to have seen that classic will not make a favorable comparison. Nor does the film have the juice to fully connect with younger audiences. Recently showcased at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, "Pups" faces an uncertain commercial future.
The film centers on Stevie Cameron Van Hoy
), a 13-year-old suburban asthmatic who when first seen is videotaping his unsuccessful suicide attempt by hanging, and his understanding girlfriend Rocky (Mischa Barton
). Stevie eventually decides to work out his frustrations by borrowing his mother's gun and attempting to hold up the local bank, with Rocky in tow.
Things go awry, of course, and the pair are soon holding a group of hostages and engaging in a lengthy standoff with police and the feds. Between dealing with the petulant Stevie's quixotic demands for pizza and a helicopter, the weary police negotiator, played by Burt Reynolds, must also field a series of calls from his wife and young daughter.
"Pups" strikes only the most obvious notes in its depiction of teen alienation, its satirical portrait of the media -- Stevie and Rocky are interviewed by MTV's Kurt Loder
, amusingly playing himself -- and its assortment of stereotypical hostages, including a cynical, wheelchair-bound veteran of the Gulf War (Adam Farrar
) and a nerdy bank manager David Alan Graf
). The film's dialogue and situations are strictly by the book, with such contrived plot machinations as Rocky experiencing her first period in the midst of the crisis.
Reynolds (whose frequent co-star Charles Durning
handled similar chores in "Dog Day") delivers an effectively restrained performance that's good enough to make you wish his material was better. As the teen bank robbers, Van Hoy and Barton are very convincing, though the former's bouts of hysteria grow increasingly hard to take. Filmmaker Ash, obviously working on a low budget and under difficult location conditions, does a thoroughly professional job, giving the film an assured technical polish.
Credits: Director, screenplay: Ash; Producers: Ash, Daniel M. Berger; Executive producers: Kazuyoshi Okuyama
, Sachie Oyama; Director of photography: Carlos R. Arguello; Editor: Michael D. Schultz; Production designer: Daniel M. Berger. Color/stereo. Cast: Rocky: Mischa Barton; Stevie: Cameron Van Hoy; Daniel Bender: Burt Reynolds; Wheelchair man: Adam Farrar; Bank manager: David Alan Graf; Kurt Loder: Himself. No MPAA rating. Color/stereo. Running time -- 101 minutes.