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Charles 'Blackie' Chen,
All-American Kyle is the newest initiate of the Black Circle Boys, an underworld society of gothic groupies whose primary interests are creating mayhem and studying the Occult. By the time he realizes he's in over his head, it may be too late! Written by
The best scenes of "Black Circle Boys" are of the film's wounded teenagers reacting to their turbulent lives in total isolation. The main character Kyle is a young man with a weak personal identification, mostly likely stemming from the distant relationship he has with his parents. Writer-director Matthew Carnahan allows these revelations to happen periodically and inductively. He directs such scenes in long takes, relying completely on the performances and nuance of the barren surroundings to bring forth the tensions boiling below the story's surface.
These few scenes are peppered in an otherwise flawed film which is melodramatic, implausible and disappointingly underdeveloped - giving the film a mysterious emotional undertone it doesn't follow through on. The opening introduces Kyle and his All-American swimming buddies wreaking antisocial havoc on the top of a building. Carnahan uses the POV of a videocamera, but stages the action awkwardly - rendering the whole approach of the scene useless. One pivotal detail in particular is extremely obscured, and that is the accidental death of one of Kyle's best friend who apparently falls off of the building.
The movie shifts into Kyle's new life in a new town and school. It becomes a traditional juvenile delinquency teen pic, throwing trite plot elements seen in most similar films from "Rebel Without a Cause" to "The Craft." Inevitably Kyle falls in with the bad kids, which in this case is a group of headbanging metal thrashers who call themselves the Black Circle Boys. Its leader Shane (Eric Mabius) is uncompromising, sociopathic, and slitheringly persuasive. The Black Circle boys turn out to be more than a fledgling metal band, and Kyle finds himself uncontrollably immersed in dangerous occult rituals and violent antisocial escapades.
The familiarities and annoyances of the film are largely to the fault of the script. While the style could have been glossy and dull like most teen pics of the time, it transcends the disappointing story with an unsettling conjunction of hand-held cinematography and gritty art direction. Carnahan's direction is raw in a way few teen films were in 1997, because he meets the material with at least attempted realism and a very serious tone. However. he's not consistently on his game throughout the film, and some scenes are bogged down from lazy direction.
The film is helped by a consistent and believable performance by Scott Bairstow. He is brooding, but likable and draws understanding to a character who makes progressively bad decisions. This is a weak, but all-around watchable teen drama that was a precursor to the realistic teen dramas of the 2000's, like "L.I.E.," "Bully" or "Mean Creek."
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