Over a year ago, the internet was abuzz with the rumor that actress Anne Hathaway was going to star in a movie that was not only "R", but required nudity (although the scenes themselves are fairly brief.) It wouldn't be so much of a surprise if Hathaway wasn't the star of such squeaky-clean films as "The Princess Diaries", "Ella Enchanted" and "Nicholas Nickleby." The film, directed by Barbara Kopple (the enjoyable Woody Allen documentary "Wild Man Blues") and written by Stephen Gaghan ("Traffic") was obviously Hathaway's attempt to show that she can do a role wholly and completely opposite of what she's done. Just when people started to wonder whatever happened to the movie, it makes its premiere on video.
The film stars Hathaway as Allison, one of a group of several rich Los Angeles kids who act like they're gangsters. The teens have wealth, they have pretty much every option available to them and a bright future if they want to take it. However, they've found themselves in a mixture of boredom and rebellion, and they'll find that it was not the smartest choice.
Early on, the group heads into East L.A. to score some drugs, which ends up with Allison's boyfriend (Mike Vogel) getting held up. While Allison is able to talk their way out of the situation, she also sees something in one of the men, Hector (Freddy Rodriguez), and decides to come back to visit him again with her friend, Emily (Bijou Phillips).
One of the film's biggest flaws is that the characters make some remarkably stupid decisions and remain unsympathetic. In a moment that seems like something out of a bizarre sitcom, after Allison gets bailed out of lockup for being taken in when the cops show up when she's with Hector, her father yells at her, while her mother wants to make everyone soup. While there are absolutely parents out there who just don't know what to do in this situation and who aren't there for their kids, the way this scene is played just makes it seem laughable.
The acting is just alright, with Hathaway coming off as the best of the bunch and yet, she's still not particularly convincing. Vogel and a nearly unrecognizable Joseph Gordon-Levitt provide so-so efforts, but Rodriguez and Phillips provide solid efforts. Overall, the performances are a mixed bag, but at the same time, I think the issue is that the screenplay doesn't give any depth to a lot of the characters, especially the parents. At 92 minutes, there was certainly enough room here to give more insight into what drove these kids to try and act like they do. Overall, "Havoc" offers a decent lead effort from Hathaway, but the screenplay needed more work to try and develop the characters and story.
Interesting note: apparently, Mandy Moore was one of the original choices for Hathaway's role.
VIDEO: "Havoc" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen by New Line. While this isn't up the excellence of New Line's usual efforts, it's still a fine effort, as the film looks mostly great. Sharpness and detail are excellent in both the bright daylight scenes and the low-lit night/interior sequences.
However, the presentation does trip up in a few instances, as edge enhancement is scene during a few scenes, as are a few traces of pixelation. Print flaws are not spotted though, nor are any other concerns. Colors remained pretty subdued, but looked accurately rendered, with no smearing or other problems.
SOUND: "Havoc" is presented in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. Aside from the rap tracks that occasionally play and deliver the expected bass, the soundtrack is largely dialogue-driven. Audio quality is fine, as dialogue remained crisp and clear. Both the Dolby Digital and DTS presentations sounded the same here.
Final Thoughts: "Havoc" has moments and a few good performances, but unfortunately, similar to way that the teens in the movie pretend to be something else on the surface, the movie really never gets below the surface in its exploration of these characters. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality, but no real supplements. Rent it.