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Review: Joseph Kahn's Detention, starring Dane Cook (Fantasia 2011)

Joseph Kahn's Detention, starring Dane Cook (Fantasia 2011)
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PLOT: An undead serial killer, a mutant fly-boy hybrid, body swapping, a time traveling bear, and kung-fu treachery are just some of the things high-schoolers Riley (Shanley Caswell), and Clapton (Josh Hutcherson) have to deal with in the weeks leading up to their school prom, which, if they aren’t careful, may unleash an apocalyptic event that could destroy the space-time continuum! Ya know- typical high school stuff.

REVIEW: DETENTION is the sophomore effort from director Joseph Kahn, who in his time, directed some of the biggest music videos of the last decade or so, but also- directed the infamous TORQUE. To his credit, rather than pretend that near-career killer never happened, Kahn has the balls to face it head on, with one of his characters mentioning in a throw-away line how awful it was. Pretty ballsy move and a line which got cheers at the Fantasia screening I saw this at.


But enough about TORQUE- what’s really important here is DETENTION. I will say this; DETENTION is without a doubt the most energetic film I saw at Fantasia this year. In fact, one might even call it manic, or rather, hyper. From the first second of the film, the audience is absolutely bombarded with seemingly random jokes and plot twists that, to Kahn’s credit, actually pay off towards the end of film. I have a feeling that some people will be totally put off by this manic style, but one thing you can’t do is call DETENTION boring.

Once I got acclimated to the insane and initially overwhelming pace of DETENTION, I started to like it a lot. While a killer stalking high-schoolers is nothing new (nor is the hyper-aware variation), I doubt anyone’s ever seen one that includes a mutant, and a time travelling bear, in addition to a healthy chunk of early-nineties nostalgia (with the immortal FREEJACK getting a shout out). It’s hard to dislike a film where our hero and villain face off in a climatic fight, where the combatants base their fight styles solely on their favorite movies; the villain’s being UNDER SIEGE (boo), and the hero’s, natch, being ROAD HOUSE (yay).


It also helps that Kahn cast his film just right, with a lot of lesser known’s including the appealing Shanley Caswell, who almost manages to stay grounded even when the film is at its most ridiculous. The beautiful Spencer Locke is hilarious as the high-school’s requisite “hot chick”, Ione, who also just may be possessed by the mind of a circa-1992 high-schooler. I also enjoyed Josh Hutcherson’s (of THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT) tongue-in-cheek performance as the school heartthrob, Clapton Davis- a name perfect for his Pitchfork-loving music snob character. The big fight scene, where he’s coached by his Patrick Swayze in ROAD HOUSE spirit guide is not only fun, but also a fitting tribute to the late, great Swayze (I maintain that RED DAWN, ROAD HOUSE & POINT BREAK are a near-perfect trilogy of badassness). The “love him or hate him” Dane Cook also has a small role as the school’s semi-creepy principal.


DETENTION’s only real failing is as a horror film, as it’s simply too ridiculous to be scary, despite buckets of gore- earning its hard R rating (the characters even openly mock PG-13 horror films at one point). While it didn’t scare me, it did entertain me, and that’s honestly more than I was expecting as I went into DETENTION expecting to hate it. It’s a solid ninety minutes of fun, although don’t be surprised it’s you’re exhausted by the time the credits roll (to a hip-hop version of Hanson’s ‘Mmm-Bop’ to boot).

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