Assassination of a High School President, though morbid sounding, is nothing like what you’d imagine. This movie is like Brick “lite” for those who have trouble keeping up with the noir style of film. While Brick is a absolutely fantastic film, this was a superbly crafted imitator, but features it’s own brand of humor and wit to make it an admirably comparative stand alone. I thoroughly enjoyed every element in this film. It’s a fun quirky detective flick bordering on Chinatown, but with enough off-the-wall humor to entertain people who aren’t film buffs or who don’t particularly like film-noir.
I can’t put my finger on why this is, but the film has an almost ‘Coen Brothers’ look to it. It’s as if each shot is set up in a surreal, almost dream-like manner…but it is still clear and vivid. Maybe that’s just me. Have a look a the trailer if you’ve never heard of this before now…
The story follows Bobby Funke (pronounced Funk) who, believing he is cooler than he is, is granted the responsibility of writing an article about the stolen SAT tests and tries to expose the perpetrator. After some in-depth research and some interviews with interesting characters (so interesting in fact you almost want to see another movies focusing on these rejects and educational vagrants), he culls over his material, writes his story and exposes the culprit…or so he thinks. But when his article is more of a “frame job” than an “open and shut case”, a whole can of worms is opened and this detective story gets more complex and engaging.
Funke’s school is comprised of some truly derelict and dysfunctional Catholic school students. It is almost humorous to see them in uniform as their behavior and antics are anything but astute. This film recalls likenesses to some of the characters in Charlie Bartlett and attempts to insert them amongst a Chinatown style of story. The off-the-wall yet stereotypical nature of the cast of characters makes my classmates in the NY school system seem like a bunch of straight arrows and altar boys/girls. Again, this is most similar to Brick but injected with the style of Jason Reitman’s Juno, if that makes sense. The fact that this film is very self-aware, I really didn’t mind it and just enjoyed the humor and plot development quite a bit. Funke’s focused, yet oblivious nature reminds me of Colombo, but the main drawback to his character is that Funke truly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But just like any underdog, he develops throughout the film and you start to enjoy seeing his transformation from “zero” to “hero”.
Bruce Willis (who I think has been hit or miss in the last 10 years) provides some awesome levity to the film which is even funnier than intended since his delivery is very deadpan. The hallway scene near the beginning where he says he “has eyes all over this school” just killed me. Bruce’s role was great because of his minimal involvement. Being a side character makes his presence effective and keeps him from being overbearing. I mean, this is a movie about high school kids. Also, I know Mischa Barton is one of many current young celebrities going through the tabloid ringer for her lass than admirable social life, but she had such poise and grace here that I couldn’t believe this was the same girl. One small part that I think played out very well but never had any resolution was the mysterious Ben Striedel who periodically calls to “fact check” Funke’s story for his admission into his upcoming collegiate Journalism program. But the scene stealing “little engine that could” which drove this movie was Reece Thompson playing Funke. I never heard of this kid but he pulled off that awkward yet proud teenager very well and am looking forward to seeing more of him in the future. His best work in this film are his reactions to his consistently failed ‘Driver’s Test’ and get big laughs.
All in all, Assassination of a High School President was as incredible as it was refreshing. This quirky detective flick had an almost British (dry) style of humor and since that’s my brand of choice, this hit home with me. This was also one of those rare films where I didn’t want to reach through the screen and strangle stooopid high school students (like I do every time I watch anything on MTV). The characters in President were created to be a little less self-important, and so were slightly more relatable and vulnerable, because they are, after all, just kids. They’re written to be defiantly immature but didn’t come across as boring. That said, I believe this film was written and cast perfectly. Also, the independent sound to the bands used in the soundtrack added to this witty film and got me deeper into the film even more than the smart dialogue. I can’t seem to find a soundtrack for purchase anywhere, but regardless I still really enjoyed this film. Plus that ending was just so perfectly noir that fans of the genre will really appreciate the homages…oh I don’t want to spoil anything, but just go see this movie!!
G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED