Anne Hathaway, like, rilly wants to be taken seriously as an adult actor. So what better way to trash that squeaky-clean Mouse House persona than to get your baps out, swear, smoke crack and simulate self-pleasure in an edgy film about the perils of living fast?
Made before Brokeback Mountain gave her critical kudos, Havoc is Kids Lite which, like its game-playing protagonist, tries hard to be gritty and nihilistic but never quite convinces. Hathaway calls this her “anti-princess role” and though it’s certainly successful in banishing any sense of The New Julie Andrews and showcasing her charisma, she’s short-changed by some brutal editing, threadbare clichés and narrative swerves between melodrama and wry observation.
While she does bring the requisite flirtatious verve to scenes with a brooding Freddy Rodriguez and Sapphic overtones to her friendship with clothes-shedding Emily (who else but habitual flasher Bijou Phillips?), Hathaway can do nothing with the supposedly poignant schoolgirl rhetoric about her ‘crew’.
What could have been an imperious snapshot on the absurdity of teenage posturing plays like an educational film (hey, kids: class, race and economic interaction always ends in tears!) with an ADD-friendly running time and plenty of nubile nudity. Your basic guilty rental flick, then, which is curious, considering director Kopple’s award-winning background in hard-hitting documentary and scribe Gaghan’s sterling work in Traffic and Syriana.
Despite the writerly pedigree, Havoc suffers from unconvincing dialogue and Inevitable Dramatic Tragedy Syndrome, but doesn’t have the heart to make you care about any of the characters. Luckily – the missed opportunities and preachy tone aside – the hot young cast do manage a few moments of veracity. Rodriguez breathes menacing life into a woeful racial stereotype, while a sidelined Joseph Gordon-Levitt manages to raise a few smiles as an unintelligible wannabe gangsta. None of which can quite cause Havoc to erupt.