Havoc concerns a bunch of conceited, hopelessly naive, extremely rich, white teenagers from upper class Los Angeles. For some reason, they aren't happy with the ridiculously nice houses they live in, or the pristine clothes in their wardrobe, or the beamers in their driveways. So, to combat these grievous injustices, they spend their afternoons hanging out in parking lots and back alleys, smoking weed, talking shit, and acting the way they think real life ganstas and thugs act. Totally ill-concieved, if you ask me! Anyway, the main focus is on Allison Lang, a smart, sassy, supremely hot girl who is intoxicated by this lifestyle, and, shocker, longs for the real thing. So, she goes looking for it, and, what do you know, she finds it, and, big surprise, discovers that it's a lot more dangerous than she or her "crew" could ever imagined.
Look, it's a standard plot, but it falls victim to one of the most prevalent and easy to spot traps in the biz, that being, everyone in this movie acts like a total imbecile! Seriously! Allison goes back downtown to roll with the crack dealers around five times in this movie. Four of those times, she gets a gun pointed at her, or gets arrested, or almost gets raped. Well, what did you expect girl? The movie really goes out of control in the end, forcing us to believe that these kids would act in such unapologetically stupid ways. If more time had been taken to make the characters behave like somewhat smart people, I would probably be able to understand why everything that happened, happened. But, there wasn't, so I don't.
Back in 2005, Anne Hathaway was a Disney princess, which probably explains why this went direct to DVD, because she is far from the royal mindset in this one! As Allison, Hathaway struts around seductively, drops more f-bombs than a stand up comedian, and shows plenty of skin. That sound like a Disney princess to you? I didn't think so. Hathaway is not bad here, but she is forced into this role that doesn't call for any of her talent. There's no range with the character, no arc. She starts the film as a faux-thug, and ends as someone who realizes how dumb she was being the whole time. Ok, maybe that is an arc, but it's a really cliched one, and it's presented in such a tired way. Hathaway does salvage this though through some witty line reading and a whole lot of sass. If there's anything good to be said about the performance, it's this; it introduced her to more adult roles. Without this movie, we wouldn't have gotten The Devil Wears Prada, or Rachel Getting Married, or the upcoming Love and Other Drugs. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a world where those movies don't exist.
Bijou Phillips is Emily, Allison's best friend, who follows her like a loyal puppy. She's probably the smartest of the bunch, because she actually says, at one point, "Let's go home." Phillips has never impressed me, and that holds true here. I don't know. Nothing really stood out. She's just there. She's to passive to be recognized in this crowd of crazy douches.
Freddy Rodriguez plays Hector, the man who welcomes Allison and Co. into his life, treating them like family and some such. He has the best dialogue in the whole thing, because he is the only one in the whole movie who has the guts to walk up to these people, slap them in the face and say, "What the fuck!" Rodriguez does a pretty decent job, but, this role isn't much of a challenge for him. He played, more or less, the same character in Harsh Times, a tough, smarter then he looks, street wise man.
That about does it for major performances. Other supporting roles are just a bunch of white, privileged teens, trying to be gangsta, and bunch of Latino guys who actually are. Two performances I want to call out come courtesy of Matt O'Leary and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who were both in Brick together the same year. O'Leary is Eric, the only white kid not obsessed with rap music and sagging jeans in the whole movie. He spends most of the movie behind a video camera, documenting his peers, and, when he is on screen filming, the moments of genuine realism start to show through, but more on that later. O'Leary is great. And then there's Gordon-Levitt. Gordon-Levitt is a guy who always takes his roles very seriously, and if you're looking for an example to prove that case, look no further then Havoc. As Sam, JGL is flat out ridiculous, but, you can't help but admire his determination. It's not necessarily a good performance, but, damn is it an entertaining one.
-insert random thug jargon here-
Director Barbara Kopple is not as hopeless as you would think, given what you've read so far. The movie looks pretty slick, and she does a decent job with her actors, especially in the scenes where the gangsta mentality is dropped. No, the real problem here is the script. Now, I am aware that this how these people talk, but, come on. Could you cut down on the swear words, just a little bit? Seriously, practically every other word here is "fuck" or "shit" or "bitch" or some other words that I am too timid to write here. The characters just feel fake when they talk like this, which I guess was sort of the point, but, that doesn't detract from how distracting it is. This is made doubly apparent by the fact that whenever the kids drop their charade, usually when they are talking to Eric through his camera, the flames of a truly great character start to flicker.
But, you know what. Great characters is not what Havoc is interested in. It is interested is showing how these kids come to learn that their precious little lives aren't as bad as they make them out to be. It is not interested in how it gets to that message, just that it gets there. There is nothing of substance in this whole movie, save a few instances of genuine emotion. The film is not terrible. It coasts on some decent acting, a slick sense of style, Anne Hathaway topless, and JGL's ridiculous performance! Other then that? There's nothing to recommend... G!