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178 out of 225 people found the following review useful:

A Social Commentary, If You Look At It

Author: Epithy from Topeka, Kansas
7 November 2005

Watching this movie, the first thing that came to mind was, "Wow, these kids sure are fake." In many initial reviews, this movie was derided as being a joke. It was either hearing about the various nude scenes of Anne Hathaway or a bunch of white kids trying to act black, and doing it poorly.

I said that that "fake" was the first thing that came to mind, because we are immediately presented with this group of rich white kids acting like they are black. However, it is being mistaken by some reviewers that these actors are doing a bad job. What we are really seeing is truly how superficial that these kids are. They are fake, in every sense of the word, and that is the whole point of the movie. Don't try and act like something you aren't because there are consequences.

I say this is a social commentary, not perfectly executed, but still fairly well done nonetheless. It does truly present many aspects of youth behavior nowadays that most people don't really look at. We are given a true side to high school, where there are fake people everywhere, underage and illegal activity is happening, and its all going on without parents there to see. This movie takes the comedy out of the teenage life that has been prevalent in movies over the past 8 years or so such as American Pie and other similar styled teen comedies and turns it to a sort of opposite view. Now I am not by any means saying that this movie is a guiding light which everyone should see. In fact, I don't know if this movie is for everyone, because of the issues it presents. Some people, especially parents, would undoubtedly have problems coming to terms that the behavior seen in this movie happens. Now it doesn't happen everywhere, or in every school, but I'm pretty sure that you know what I mean.

I think this movie, is backed up by pretty well performed acting done by the majority of its cast. Anne Hathaway, who many doubted had the range to tackle such a role, seemed very natural in the part. I don't mean that negatively, and I actually give her credit for really becoming the character. The rest of the cast does a good job, but it is her performance that truly helps you understand most of the underlying message of the movie.

I know that some will not see in this movie what I saw, but to each their own. I do hope that people see this movie and don't criticize it solely on what they think is bad acting. It has a much deeper theme than that, and I think that the more people understand that, the more people will realize this is a pretty good movie.

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90 out of 133 people found the following review useful:

Was it Really Necessary?

Author: fixyourcat from United States
25 February 2006

This movie was often times painful to watch, and it's not because of its "moving" subject matter. It's possible the filmmakers aren't at fault, here, because when you make a movie about irritating people, don't be surprised that the viewers will find themselves irritated. But if you take on a film that'll make people's brains hemorrhage, you probably deserve to be booed.

Honestly, though, after seeing this piece of crap, I'm surprised Stephen Gaghan can still get work in Hollywood. Likewise for Hathaway, who does a respectable job with a vastly mundane script. Not so kudos to Bijou Philips, for whom playing trash isn't exactly a huge stretch or test of acting ability, nor to Freddy Rodriguez, who, to make his speech more threatening, actually slows himself down so much that he starts. Speaking. In. Fragments. Of the trio, though, he may be the most surprising transformation, especially since he's so squeaky on "Six Feet Under." It was unexpected, but it may have been a casting mistake. Instead of appearing threatening, he looks more like he has Short Man's Syndrome, since Hathaway has a head of height on him, and may appear more menacing therefore. I know I shouldn't be so astounded, but it stupefies me still, how far Hollywood will go to make the worst casting decisions in the name of getting someone proximately famous for the DVD cover. Oy...

I think the most irksome thing about "Havoc" is that, in the end, it's a vacuous morality tale. They had a chance to make something of the examination of bored, rich teenagers who want to be poor on purpose, but they instead glazed over it. No one involved has long-lasting suffering. It's like the whole thing was just a bad dream, which is, I suppose, a fitting description of a night spent watching "Havoc," a most aptly-titled film. The most disappointing aspect of the whole deal is that the personal responsibility lesson isn't given enough gravity. Bored, unlikable, upper-class adolescents get in a wee bit of trouble with a Latin gang of their own accord? My cup overfloweth. Honest to God, if I have to hear another person defend an individual's actions on the basis of the "It's only your fault until you get hurt; then, you can blame someone else" line, I'm going to implode. And guess what "Havoc" does?

Bottom line: if you're looking for half-naked girls, you've hit the jackpot. Also, if you're a teenager and you're looking for some kind of searing expose of the "Gee, I think I'll go join a gang today" lifestyle, you, too, are in luck. Otherwise, don't be surprised if you find yourself vomiting uncontrollably and crying for your mother during the ninety minutes of the train wreck called "Havoc."

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116 out of 195 people found the following review useful:

Havoc it is

Author: gradyharp from United States
5 December 2005

If there is some justice to misjudging investments in movies, then the fact that this film went directly to DVD despite the presence of a crew that includes some impressive names is notable. Writer Stephen Gaghan ('Traffic', 'Rules of Engagement', 'Syriana', etc) has composed a contrived script about rich, bored, Hip Hop imitating, unmotivated teenagers trying to spice up their insignificant lives by treading into the East LA 'danger zone', an experience from which they learn nothing about cross cultural ethnic groups and just return to Pacific Palisades whining about 'damaged goods'. It is an insulting story, one that stereotypes Hispanics as drug-peddling, raping thugs in a totally black and white manner, not taking into consideration the viewpoint of a cultural group's positive attributes and philosophies.

No longer a viable gimmick, the film begins with the tired cliché of a kid making a documentary about his friends, asking what they like and don't like, their goals, their outlooks. The fact that none of the interviewees has a clue about life, preferring to follow the current Hip Hop language (very poorly written) and focusing on sex, drugs, and escapes from their wealthy environments. Among these are three girls, the main character being Allison (Anne Hathaway, miscast in every way), who follow their superficial boyfriends on a joyride for drugs into East LA. There they meet Hector (Freddy Rodríguez, trying his best to create a character without the benefit of a decent script) who sells them drugs and whom Allison eyes. Allison is so shallow she doesn't have a clue about her motivations, just wanting something 'dangerous' to happen. She coaxes her equally clueless girlfriends into going into East LA to seduce Hector and ends up in a ridiculous barter for joining Hector's gang (no mention is made at all about the Chicanas who would never allow these three geeks to enter their territory unchallenged). The results of a barter results in an experience with which the girls cannot cope so they run back to the protection of the dysfunctional parents they loathe to cover the mess of their caper. Attempts to resolve this dumb story fail pathetically.

With so many fine Indie films that go begging for attention, it is a shame money is wasted on this sort of meaningless mess of a film. The 'unrated' designation is probably meant for the occasional nudity and gratuitous sex and language, but here 'Unrated' might just mean that the film is so without merit that it is non-classifiable. Avoid this one and don't think that a fine writer such as Gaghan guarantees a successful story. Grady Harp

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139 out of 241 people found the following review useful:

Two hours I can never get back.

Author: cridafer from United States
20 January 2006

Words cannot express how much I hated this movie. I hated every aspect of it, from the direction to the writing to the acting. Havoc is the story of one teenager's (Anne Hathaway) exploration of a world outside that which she is accustomed. And that's putting it in a way that gives this movie more credit than it deserves. Hathaway's character is part of a "gang" of white, upper-class high-schoolers who backlash at their upbringing by emulated black culture. She and her friends eventually decide to take a trip to East L.A., and no hilarity ensues.

I decided to watch this movie for two reasons: Stephen Gaghan had a hand in it; and Anne Hathaway, who I have always found enjoyable to watch, was starring in it.

I'll begin my criticism with the writing. After finally viewing the movie, I can honestly say that I found nothing that resembles Stephen Gaghan in the script. Vapid is the only word I can think of to describe the thoughts and ideas of this movie. It is one of the those movies that tries so hard to make a social comment, yet fails so miserably. The characters are all one-dimensional, especially Toby (Mike Vogel), the wigger boyfriend of Hathaway's character Allison. His actions are so broad and exaggerated, I had a hard time taking anything he, or anyone on screen at the time, did seriously. Finally, each character was written to be an example of a stereotype. I almost laughed when Hector (Freddy Rodriguez) tried to explain that not everything in East L.A. was about gangs and drugs, then proceeded to fill every stereotype of a movie gang member.

Each and every actor in this movie lost points in my book for being associated with this film. Even those I like and respect. Michael Biehn, Laura San Giacomo, Anne Hathaway and Bijou Phillips all have done serious, believable roles. Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose only respectable role I've seen him in was "10 Things I Hate About You" (I haven't seen "Manic" as of this writing), in which he was at least believable. Here, his unbelievable overacting reaches a point at which Paris Hilton would be proud.

This brings me to the directing. Because I respect many of the leads and they have done great work in the past, I can only blame the awful choices on the director.

Very few movies reach the depths this movie does. I have not hated a movie so much since "The Doom Generation." Stay away if you can.

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39 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

A middle view

Author: Brandt Sponseller from New York City
1 December 2005

It seems that this is one of those films that people either love or hate. I'm more in the middle. At times I found Havoc annoying, but as it progressed, the story became more engaging, and you're supposed to find aspects of it annoying.

Anne Hathaway--who is trying her hardest here to distance herself from her previous Disney and family film image by choosing a role where she's naked and sexual as often as possible--plays Allison, a rich, enigmatic high school student, wrapped up with a very plastic wannabe-gangsta-rapper group of white kids. They have a minor encounter with a Mexican gang in East L.A., and Hathaway finds herself (somewhat) inexplicably drawn to the Mexican gang. She keeps returning to visit one of the leaders, Hector (Freddy Rodriguez). At one point things become more complicated, as the audience surely expects.

The annoying aspect of the film is the rich kid gangsta posers. They seem incredibly fake, stupid and ridiculous. But on the other hand, that's pretty much the point. Los Angeles certainly has a reputation, somewhat deserved, for plasticity, so I suppose that Los Angeles high schools would be even worse, because a large percentage of high school students everywhere tend to conform to some clique or another (as do many adults, for that matter, but the "join a club to fit in and be accepted" mentality is usually more transparent and focused in high school). So the main characters should be annoying, and Allison, and later her friend Emily (Bijou Phillips), should be frustrating in their lack of direction and independent identity.

The problem with Havoc, however, is that the bulk of the running time is given to this irksome, frustrating and ridiculous group of characters. That's not exactly a recipe for falling in love with a film. Both Allison and the audience will likely respond to the Mexican gang better because there is an air of authenticity present with them, thanks largely to the cast playing those roles, but they're just not in the film enough, and the climax and dénouement are far less than satisfactory in that regard. Likewise, one rich kid character who is making an amateur documentary on the rich kid "gang" comes across as more authentic and interesting, but he ends up having an inexcusably minor role.

Still, if you can bear the inundation of poser behavior and lingo, there is an interesting story somewhat buried here, plus some attractive cinematography, a good soundtrack (both the songs and the more traditional score), and I'm certainly not complaining about seeing, um, more of Anne Hathaway. Approach this one with a lot of caution, but it's easy to see how it could be a gem for some.

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25 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Living the life.

Author: Dante Mason from United States
8 June 2006

OK. I just saw this tonight for the first time. I don't care what you others say, the acting was good, the production was good. Now, Anne was a bad choice for the lead because she does look a little old for the role, but other than that, it was a good film. Let me tell you why, if I may. I grew up in the hood. Not what little preppy white kids consider the hood, but the actual hood. I am talking about drive-bys, gang wars, drug dealers on the corners and at every bus stop. It might bother people, but this was an accurate portrayal of the ghetto. This showed the stereotype of suburban white youth. No, not all white kids are whiggers with attitudes that they can't back up. Just like not all Latinos are rock dealers. But, please you must recognize that this is showing stereotypes and nothing more. Remember, we wouldn't have stereotypes if there wasn't a lot of truth behind it. White kids, especially affluent ones, are fountains of cynicism. They have no direction in life. Therefore, a great many of them turn into what this film shows. Latinos, those from areas like my own, often do gang up and its very common for them to sell rock and reef. Its not racism, and its not an attack on a culture, its the truth, painful as it might be. If you actually watched this film closely, and had an open point of view, you'd see that the only thing in this movie that lacks credibility, is Anne's age.

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27 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

Hollywood rebels without a cause -- where are you James Dean?

Author: lawfella from New Jersey, USA
4 May 2006

Negative comments about this film need to be tempered by the sad story surrounding its making. The script was written by a 17-year old girl named Jessica Kaplan. No, It's not Citizen Kane, but it is an extraordinary piece of work for a teenager. And most sadly, she perished in an airplane crash at the age of 21. The film is dedicated to her memory.

As to the film's merits, it is by my count the 1,464th variation of Rebel Without A Cause, which I think said all that needed to be said on the subject. Did you know that adolescents often find society empty and pointless? And that they do stupid things by way of rebelling against it, in hopes of dispelling their angst and finding something more meaningful? Yes, it's true. In this version of that old chestnut, the rebels are a particularly spoiled group of high school students living in Hollywood. To find something they consider "real", they form youth gangs in imitation of the poor folk in East L.A. And then they actually go there, at first to buy drugs; but then rich girls Anne Hatahway and Bijou Phillips try to get involved in the local Hispanic gang scene. Some pretty modest mayhem ensues.

The East L.A. people are awfully sanitized and not very believable. Nobody is addicted to anything. Nobody is desperate. Nobody appears to be poor. These are basically solid middle class folk, devoted to family, who have a few surface quirks and who happen to sell crack cocaine instead of, say, life insurance.

Is it my imagination or does the gorgeous Bijou Phillips always play exactly the same role -- a sexually eager girl who gets in over her head, discovering the hard way that yes, she has limits? That's the role she plays here, and she is fine (as is lead Anne Hatahway). But I wonder whether that is her entire repertoire. Perhaps she will branch out someday.

Somewhere on this planet, there must be some group of people more deserving of sympathy than affluent Hollywood teenagers. So I found myself wondering why this film had been made. The young scriptwriter should not be held accountable, but you would think older people would know better.

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21 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Oh, post-modern world

Author: clumsypiper from United States
4 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After reading the comments for this movie, I had a strong urge to see it. To be honest, it seemed like a bit of a pot boiler, though I was surprised when I found out it was penned by the same writer that gave us Syriana and Traffic.

What I really liked about this film was what lied beneath its surface, even if that seed wasn't brought to fruition for a number of reasons. What I thought the film truly attempted to explore was the membrane between cultures that has become permeable in today's media-saturated environment, or more specifically, the access granted to those with the means to appropriate what has become a stylized version of ghetto culture. It is one of the more fascinating reversals in contemporary culture made possible only by the media explosion : the cultural performance of a sort of "ghetto aesthetic" by white suburban youth, whose participation in that aesthetic is one of choice, rather than of necessity, as it could possibly be said is true of those who must actually navigate the ghetto. I appreciate the effort on the part of Gaghan to explore this cultural phenomenon, but unfortunately, he and his collaborators fell short of their endeavor in more than one area.

For one, and I imagine many would agree, the choice of Anne Hathaway as the lead was particularly disastrous, and not because of her association to more wholesome films, but because she simply did not have the capacity as an actress to perform this role. Secondly, the performance of the PLC actors was fairly laughable, though the blame must be placed on the scriptwriters for this one. The characters switched too freely from their "thug" personae to their "authentic" (if that word is appropriate) suburban personae. The filmmakers truly cut their own feet out from under them and missed the point: white teenagers immersed in this sort of cultural performance are usually far more invested in their own individual performances, and thus, would not be likely to slip so freely between identities. That they were able to do so betrayed the fact that the teenagers were aware that they were in fact performing, rendering the characters unbelievable and blunting the point of the film.

But the film's true failure was in its mind-boggling refusal to prioritize the subject matter above the personal struggle of the protagonist, which comes off as pretty flimsy. If the filmmakers really wanted to explore the interplay between cultures and the consequences of that interaction as the result of our media-saturated environment, there really should not have relied on such an antiquated notion of a central protagonist. It's just not that kind of movie (or shouldn't have been). Gaghan did a stunning job of elevating his subject-matter in Traffic and Syriana, which leaves me with the sinking sensation that there might have been some studio intervention on this one.

In the end, Havoc is stifled by the centrality of Allison's moral dilemma. What is far more interesting is the implications of this threshold - both figurative and literal - that has been opened in contemporary American society. Havoc's endeavor is a bold one in exploring a sojourn between cultures not just in a circumscribed sense wherein suburban teens take part in a cultural performance within the confines of their own environment mediated by digital medium, but in a real world scenario. The most poignant moments occur within this awkward zone of interaction, and much of the praise can be placed on Johnny Vasquez: the scene where he explains that East Los Angeles is a place where "people live," rather than a vacuum of nightly news reported crime. Perhaps the most searing line occurs after the contentious "rape" scene in which Manuel asks Allison, "What did you want?", alerting her that this experience is not within the locus of control usually allotted her as the result of her white privilege. An "authentic" experience is inherently alien to her, and experiencing the alien is rarely comforting. Such interaction carries the weight of victimization for both parties - Allison and Emily for whom the sexual taboos are too great a hurtle to jump, and Manuel, who suffers the consequences of Emily's attempt to grasp at some sense of control and to cover up the shame that she feels following the sexual interlude. This double victimization is something that is overlooked in the was-it or was-it-not arguments over the sex scene, which is unfortunate, because the point of the film, although poorly articulated, can be found in the aftermath of that scene.

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18 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Just Plain Horrible....

Author: LisaAllen123 from Sterling VA
7 April 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I just saw this on Starz and where do I start? This was a script right out of those old after school specials. Straight girl ends up on wrong side of tracks.

A few points: - Apparently, it is totally safe for a young white girl to drive through the streets of East LA in a $55,000 Mercedes, a convertible no less without getting car jacked. It is also apparently safe to park that Mercedes convertible with the top down on the street in East LA without having it stolen or stripped.

- Gang members are totally approachable and harmless to outsiders. They even stop having sex with you after you ask them to.

- The acting by the young male "wiggers" was just plain laughable. As if three 17 year old high school boys would actually contemplate confronting gang members with weapons on those gang members home turf no less.

And the point of this movie was? A seemingly intelligent, wealthy girl decides she wants to go to East LA for kicks because she is bored? Here's a clue for kicks sweet cheeks, next time grab daddy's Amex card and just head to Rodeo drive. This movie was not only unbelievable; it was a total waste of both film and time.

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55 out of 101 people found the following review useful:

stunning film with acting talent to die for

Author: chc320 from United States
25 March 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this movie last summer and I was so amazed with the tale of a young girl, Allison, who through the course of the film realizes just how lonely and neglected she is as a rich kid. Phillips and Freddy Rodriguez were the stand out talent. Watching Rodriguez, Hector, just bring such depth to a gangster character without being over the top or offensive was worth seeing. He is an actor's actor! he will knock you out with his acting muscle. Although this film surrounds the lives of teenagers it is in no way, shape or form a teeny-bopper movie. It is a movie that displays the problems with having everything but whats really important, like the real love of a family. In the film Allison will go so far as to sleep with a gang member, as an initiation, to be a part of this gang..this family. She is desperate for the feeling of family. Sound more cliché than it is. See this movie, it was very moving and I left feeling like I went through something besides just sitting there watching a bunch of actors pretend something for my enjoyment!

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