On the outside, Rivervale High seems like a typical suburban school, filled with a largely white, middle-class population. New student Jenny Dahlquist (Jane McGregor) quickly discovers the divisive cliques that polarize the campus when she tries to find a seat in the cafeteria. Cheerleaders, jocks, druggies, preppies, skateboarders, nerds—they’ve all staked their territory in the lunchroom, and don’t tolerate outsiders. At an empty table sits Trevor, the ultimate loner/outcast. Dubbed “The M…d Bomber,” Trevor targeted the football team with an unwired explosive device the previous year, after enduring continual abuse and humiliation at the hands of the school’s swaggering athletes. As a result, Rivervale now resembles a maximum security prison, complete with metal detectors, guards, and a zero tolerance policy.
Jenny doesn’t shun Trevor like the rest of the student body, and the two strike up a delicate friendship. In addition, drama teacher Val Duncan (Tom Cavanagh) hopes to help Trevor by allowing him to vent his frustrations in the controversial play Bang, Bang, You’re Dead, which the school’s nervous parents staunchly oppose. Life looks brighter for Trevor, yet Rivervale’s extremist group, a collection of bullied kids known as The Trogs (short for troglodytes), counterbalances such positive influences. The Trogs admire Trevor for standing up to his assailants and taking serious action, and they court him to join their clique. Craving acceptance, Trevor enters into their culture of guns, warfare, and paranoia. Soon he produces a disturbing, violent tape for Mr. Duncan’s video production class, reigniting suspicions concerning his motives and mental state. As tensions escalate between the jocks and Trogs, Trevor is drawn into the battle, and must decide whether to participate in the deadly rampage his desperate friends are plotting.
Paramount presents Bang, Bang, You’re Dead in its original 1.33:1 full-screen format, and the image adopts an appropriately gritty look. The source material is clear even during the numerous grainy, jerky video cut-ins, and remains excellent throughout. Blacks are especially solid and rich, and Trevor’s dingy basement bedroom possesses a high degree of detail. The movie is quite dark and has appropriately has a washed-out palette, but there are a few moments where bright colors emerge. The skin tones are well reproduced.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack offers great sound with no distortion. Gunfire possesses appropriate punch and the modern music soundtrack has a wide dynamic range. Trevor’s haunting voiceover during his video sequence is especially effective and the rest of the dialogue is clear and audible.
Full Screen Format and Dolby Digital English Stereo are listed as the extra features. Need I say more?
The issue of high school violence is not a simple task to understand, nor to reproduce on film. Guy Ferland has done a fine job in trying to understand all of the factors involved in the explosion of violence that is all too often reported today. A fine performance by Ben Foster helps to make the impact on the viewer that the film intends to. This is not a film for the weak at heart but is definitely worth a rental.
Special Features List