Director: Joseph Kahn
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Shanley Caswell, Alison Woods, Parker Bagley and Spencer Locke
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
Detention is definitely one of those “marmite films” some people will absolutely hate this film due to its constant self-awareness, pop culture references, visual tricks and insanity. Whilst others will absolutely love this film due to its constant self-awareness, pop culture references, visual tricks and insanity. I am much more in the camp of the latter than the former. There are parts of Detention, which make me feel like it is a movie similar to one I would make. As a film fan I am constantly coming up with ideas for movies in my head. As I am seventeen, one of these ideas was a teen film, which mocks teen films by putting other genres (Such as horror and science-fiction) as well as some genuinely life or death situations into the teen film. This is exactly what Detention does. Therefore as Detention is essentially a visual realization of ideas that I have also had, I will perhaps be more inclined to appreciate it than others.
This film is co-written and directed by Joseph Kahn. Kahn is a filmmaker of much promise and Detention is one of the most visually alive films I have seen this year. He doesn’t simply repeat one flashy trick again and again (Like Zack Snyder with slow-motion) but instead delivers a multitude of inventive shots. The way he shoots the film, along with how it is scored and edited turns the film into this shot of adrenaline. The whole film is shot with this music video aesthetic (Not surprising therefore to learn that Joseph Kahn has directed his fair share of music videos) as scenes are commonly cut to pieces of music and the whole movie moves at this catchy rhythm. For some, Detention may require a settling in period during the first fifteen or so minutes, a realization of what type of movie this is going to be. Once this discovery has been made, if you go with it and embrace it, you are in for one of the best cinematic rides of the year. However if what I have written so far about the film already irks you, then you are best not queuing up for this one.
Beneath all the style, bravado and time-travelling bears…Joseph Kahn actually hints towards some substance. There is one scene between the two protagonists Clapton Davis (Played by Josh Hutcherson) and Riley (Played by Shanley Caswell) that is genuinely touching. There is some sweetness under the film’s “cool” cynicism. There is a scene where Riley attempts to hang herself, which is incredibly hard to watch, and therefore rightly filmed and acted. However I found this scene incredibly problematic, as it was so out of touch with the rest of the film tonally and I feel it could have easily (and should have) been cut. The fact that Joseph Kahn never fully exploits and explores the emotional potential that these brief scenes display, may annoy some, however as this is only his second film, for me it demonstrates that this filmmaker has a lot more substance in his locker than what is on display in this brilliant and stylistic film.
The film briefly has a God Bless America-esque comedic approach with multiple high school clichés coming under attack. However at times, like I did with God Bless America, I found the film hypocritical and contradictory, wondering if anybody was exempt from their targeting. However Detention never gets as nasty as God Bless America and is not as consistent in utilizing or as lazily reliant on that form of humour. Some may call the film episodic and be right (Certain scenes from this film could function brilliantly as short films), as for the majority of this film I wondered whether this screenplay had simply been written as Joseph Kahn went along. However it is quite an achievement that Joseph Kahn is able to bring all his disparate and deranged threads together into a satisfying conclusion. The film also has a twist that I did not see coming and warrants a second viewing as all the scenes involving a particular character for the first half of the film can now be viewed an entirely different way. Turns out there was method in Joseph Kahn’s apparent madness.
I don’t want to spoil too much about the story, as a huge part of the joy for me was not knowing where this film was going to go next, a rare feeling to have watching a film nowadays and something that should be enjoyed and celebrated. In terms of the performances and the characters there is not much to write home about, as Joseph Kahn is very much the star of the show. I’m glad to see Josh Hutcherson (Of Hunger Games fame) in a film like this and he does appear to have a good, interesting taste in films given that he also appeared in The Kids Are All Right, or at least, his agent and advisors do. Also Shanley Caswell gives a good performance as Riley. It doesn’t matter that the majority of characters are essentially caricatures as the film is one way mocking the existence of such caricatures. This film is undoubtedly style over substance, yet the style is very much over the substance rather than at the expense of substance.
Overall Detention is one of my favourite films of the year so far. I loved its visual style, its soundtrack and its completely out of control nature. It is absolutely not for everyone and there were times where I found elements of its style rather annoying and tiresome. However for the most part, Detention is one of the most original, unpredictable and exciting films of the year. A hyper-active, self aware shot to the senses, that actually has a little bit of heart and a little bit of a voice underneath its brilliant and bizarre exterior.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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