Director Joel Schumacher may have wanted to create a modern Shakespearean tragedy with Twelve, a worse-than-usual showing for the polarizing filmmaker, but the film only manages to drag its talented young actors down into melodramatic nonsense. Based on a novel by Nick McDonell, Twelve highlights a group of trust-fund Manhattan teenagers that turns to a new recreational drug for kicks. From its overwrought narration to its ridiculous climax, Twelve is terrible top to bottom.
After the death of his mother to cancer, White Mike (Chace Crawford) gives up on college and starts dealing. Mike's na´ve friend Molly (Emma Roberts) thinks he works for his father, and Mike's cousin Charlie (Jeremy Allen White) gets hooked on supplier Lionel's (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) designer drug "twelve." Chris Kenton (Rory Culkin) lives in a swanky house while his parents travel to the Caribbean, and throws parties so people will think he's cool. A whole mess of other terrible people move through the social circle, including Chris's steroid-addicted older brother Claude (Billy Magnussen); once-normal Jessica (Emily Meade), who gets addicted to twelve; and Sara (Esti Ginzburg), a selfish and manipulative school flirt who wants to be famous.
Kids are bored and stupid, especially if they're rich, so they turn to destructive behavior for kicks. This is what we're told in countless movies and books. Twelve is yet another exploration of a bunch of unlikable people whining about how hard it is to live in a penthouse and drive a Bentley. The film's narrator (Kiefer Sutherland, apparently helping out buddy Schumacher) tells us that when twelve hit the streets, the prep-school kids with money to blow began eating it up. The drug is highly addictive, and combines the highs of cocaine and ecstasy.
The biggest problem with Twelve - and there are many - is that every single character is unlikable. White Mike is the closest to a decent guy, and he's a drug dealer that facilities many addictions to twelve. It's hard to care if any one of the characters lives or dies because each is so pretentiously predictable. The film's second biggest flaw is that viewers have seen all this done far better before. Surely the wealthy children of New York's finest must tire of being portrayed with such contempt.
Schumacher at once seems to be making a slick drama and a stage production. At times he moves the camera seductively through the city, only to switch to a theatrical, minimalist set-up for the next scene. Neither style is particularly successful. The narration is also embarrassing. Schumacher has Sutherland vocalize the characters' every action and deliver each line of dialogue like it's part of some new silver-screen gospel. Schumacher has never been a consistent director, but his eclectic energy is sorely missed on Twelve. Although the film feels phoned in, Schumacher did convince this group of talented young actors to sign up for what is essentially a bad drama class production. Things don't end well for most of their characters, and I couldn't have cared less.
Twelve tanked at the box office, so it's unsurprising that Fox sticks the movie on a 25GB single-layer Blu-ray with little fanfare. The 1.85:1 AVC-encoded transfer is completely average, exhibiting only mediocre depth and detail. The image is soft throughout, and few shots really stand out as high definition. Colors are bland and blacks are not especially deep. Contrast is occasionally a bit too high, but skin tones look natural. Minimal edge enhancement is present in spots, but compression artifacts are not an issue. Nothing here stands out as awful, but this transfer is certainly unassuming.
The film's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is similarly average. Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, but the track has little range. This may as well be a stereo track, because the surround speakers are rarely utilized. Even in scenes with thumping music or loud effects, the surrounds stay silent and the subwoofer barely moves. English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles are available.
Director Joel Schumacher's Twelve, a tired exploration of addicted youth, is not the edgy drama it wants to be. With its unlikable, cookie-cutter characters, overwrought narration, and melodramatic, violent conclusion, Twelve is forgettable garbage. Fox probably got the memo that the film stinks, and the Blu-ray is nothing special. Skip It.
William lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.