Sunday, September 10, 2006

Havoc (2005)

Havoc (Barbara Kopple, 2005)

The plot is not unfamiliar: Bored rich kids faking it out by pumping it up with the ghetto accent, the gang culture and the hip hop wardrobe. Barbara Kopple's Havoc is your everyday urban drama that dissects the huge divide between the privileged rich and the stratified poor by having members of both classes interact in the most surprising of ways. Havoc seems to be more interested in the lifestyle of the rich kids of the Palasade. Kopple portrays the Latino gang of downtown L.A. as merely a necessary element of the film --- an alien culture whose allure is excitement in danger. Hints of characterizations for the Latino gang members are kept to a minimum, while the faux trappings of the rich kids are put into spotlight, creating a curiously imbalanced film which seems to draw more from fantasy than reality, despite the fact that the events in the film might really happen.

Allison (Anna Hathaway) is part of a Palasades gang with her boyfriend Toby (Mike Vogel), friend Emily (Bijou Phillips), and Emily's boyfriend Sam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The gang is the typical Caucasian rich kid gang. They cruise the more affluent portions of Los Angeles in their richly adorned vehicles, picking up fights with rival gangs in the night, but being perfect students by day. In one of the gang's cruises, they decide to go to downtown L.A. to buy some drugs from the real gangs who reside there. Allison gets attracted to the Latino gang and gets herself acquainted with one of the members, Hector (Freddy Rodriguez) leading to tragic results.

Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple directs the film with assured professionalism. The film is edited briskly and the cinematography is quite clear in differentiating the sunny coolness of the Palasades and the gritty grimy yet tempting allure of downtown Los Angeles. Kopple makes it a point to show the two worlds as completely different and that when the Palasades kids find themselves downtown, it's like they're in a different country despite the fact that downtown L.A. is just less than an hour away from their affluent residences. It's the same with the Latino gang. In a later scene, two Latinos find themselves in Bel-air and while they know the narrow alleyways of downtown like the palm of their hands, affluent White Los Angeles is an utterly different world, where they aren't treated as Americans, but as dangerous elements. The obvious differences fleshed out by Kopple provides for interesting class commentary, but in a way, is a bit overdone.

Written by Stephen Gaghan, who continues off the story provided by Jessica Kaplan (she died from an airplane crash before the film finished), Havoc may be criticized as unrealistic and such criticism isn't entirely false. I would never get it why Allison suddenly decides to try to go with the Latino gang ---- boredom, sure, but that's not enough justification to carry on the bulk of a film. The film hints of an attraction by Allison to Hector but that isn't really fleshed out. The primary justification is always the idea that Allison seems to be so tired of her Palasades life that she seeks something rawer, more real, but eventually gets disappointed when she got herself into something that is bigger than what she can actually chew.

The film throws in an unnecessary character, a documentary filmmaker Eric (Matt O'Leary) who seems to be interested as to how the Palasades gang works. He goes around filming the fights, interviews the gang members but as to why he's part of the film, I can never fathom. It's probably Kopple trying to pump up her themes of social reality and how kids hide in a facade of toughness and how film can never really show the truth behind the facades these kids.


Anonymous said...

I don't get it. Who dies at the end? OR do they want to leave you hanging, suggesting that it could be any one of the charachters? I'm so confused!

Oggs Cruz said...

Well, the film didn't visually show what happened but I assume the two groups had a confrontation in downtown LA. If I address all circumstances correctly (arms expertise, the ability to not flinch in violence), I'd think the Latinos will come out victorious, and the white guys, dead or injured. Or they could be held up in a prison cell somewhere. It all boils down to that --- well, probably the Latinos will stay in prison longer, while the white dudes will have their rich daddies and mommies call up all their connections to get them out of such an embarrassing scenario.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your evaluation of this movie. I kinda liked it, but could never really understand why any of it was taking place. I could understand Allison being attracted to Hector, which I felt was the real draw to her returning again and again. I just felt the movie went totally out the window with the wanting to join their crew. I think in real life they would have been laughed out of the room.

Anonymous said...

RE: final confrontation
According to Gaghan's script the film ends with Toby's funeral--he was the only one killed in the resulting gunfight. Kopple, however, decided to scrap that ending, so it was never filmed.

Anonymous said...

I think it would have been an even better ending if the camera kid would have been shot in the end, and he died. It would have represented so many things that I think were struggling to be portrayed throughout the film. Also would have given him a bigger purpose. Just a thought.