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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » New Port South
New Port South
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG-13 // March 12, 2002
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted April 8, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Kyle Cooper's New Port South may be his directorial debut but he's had years to hone his visual style as the designer of some of the most incredible opening credit sequences around, from Seven's astonishing mini-film to other effective openings for films like The American President, Donnie Brasco, and The Island of Dr. Moreau (the best thing about that bomb), as well as the groundbreaking videogame Metal Gear Solid 2.

With all of these smart, concise, and supremely cinematic sequences to his credit, New Port South should have the punch of a slick, stylish thriller. Instead, New Port South plays closer to a standard episode of Boston Public. (It probably doesn't help that the film is executive produced by the creepy youth-obsessed John Hughes and is written by his son James.) A group of suburban Chicago high school students become interested in a former student who escaped from a mental institution and ran rampant, freeing patients at other institutions.

As the students get deeper into the mysterious story they find themselves drawn into his anti-establishment mindset, plastering the school with anti-authority propaganda and performing rebellious acts. Something of a revolution springs out of this activism, but the film is never really convincing in showing that these students are being oppressed. Maddox (Blake Shields) is the most fed up with the status quo, but he mostly comes off as spoiled and touchy. Todd Field (director of In the Bedroom) plays the scowling teacher Mr. Walsh, whose rules help drive Maddox and pals to insurrection. But, in my book, telling a student that a photo essay is not an appropriate substitute for a written assignment doesn't make a teacher a dictator. New Port South is a shallow exercise in teenage rebellion without real cause or passion.

Granted, the film tries to make right in the end but even then the moral is confused by some ambiguous actions and flashbacks. Ultimately New Port South is one of those films that approaches an important and current issue (youth anger) but doesn't have anything coherent to say about it. One can imagine the filmmakers comparing Maddox's self-induced struggle to something like the Columbine massacre and any number of other acts of school violence, but the film doesn't give any insight into that darkness.

VIDEO:
The anamorphic widescreen image looks crisp and clean. The cinematography is surprisingly bland and seems more similar to TV shows than the hyper-lyrical look of Cooper's credit sequences.

AUDIO:
The audio is available both as DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1. The location recording is sometimes a bit muddy, but the mix is dynamic and rich. Much of the film is quiet and brooding and the audio atmosphere helps add a bit of tension.

EXTRAS:
Just some trailers.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
New Port South is disappointing. It doesn't add anything new to the disaffected youth canon and it squanders the directorial debut of a filmmaker with a strong command of the visual language. Hopefully his next outing will be more interesting.

Email Gil Jawetz at buskerdog@yahoo.com

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