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Review: The Dirties

The Dirties
09.30.2013by:
8 10

PLOT: Two bullied high schoolers, Matt (Matthew Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams) are making a movie in which they act out their revenge fantasies against a group of bullies called “The Dirties”. But as the film gets more and more elaborate, the boys start blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

REVIEW: THE DIRTIES is kinda like a film geek's take on ELEPHANT, and I don't mean for that to sound exploitative. In fact, I'd wager THE DIRTIES is a far more affecting and disturbing take on the unfortunate epidemic of school shootings (a tragedy that keeps repeating itself) than that admittedly brave film was. The reason I'd say it's arguably more powerful is that ELEPHANT never tried to get inside the heads of the shooters. It never tried to explain the unexplainable, which was worth respecting. But, that was 2003. In the ten years since, we've had more and more stories like the one here. Clearly, we can't just explain away these shootings as the work of “freaks” and madmen. THE DIRTIES dares us to get inside their heads, and the result is unsettling.

Co-writer, director and star Matthew Johnson is an affable guy, which makes the idea of watching him as a potential school shooter all the more disturbing. If you're a real film geek, you'll certainly at least start off the film by identifying with him, as him and Owen trade lines from USUAL SUSPECTS, and PULP FICTION, or try to re-enact the “multiple Malkovich” scene from BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. In deconstructing these tragedies, people always look for the “signs” and are quick to blame anything that can explain why someone could do something so horrible. Here, Johnson, and his co-star Owen Williams are nice guys, and seemingly far from being psychopaths. But, we watch as the guys get pushed farther and farther over the edge by the bullying they're faced with each and every day, and while being the victims of bullying doesn't justify their actions, it does pose some questions that need to be asked.

I'm usually not a real fan of the found-footage genre, but it can't be denied that it works in THE DIRTIES. While it was likely a budgetary necessity, it also makes us feel disturbingly intimate with the guys (although exactly who is filming them is never really addressed). We watch as over and over again, Matt and Owen are bullied by their peers, and made to feel worthless as their teachers turn a blind eye. If anything, bullying is worse now than it was when I was in school fifteen years ago. My graduation coincided with the Columbine shooting, and back then it seemed like an isolated incident...now, not so much. The popular phrase used to counsel victims of school bullying is “it gets better.” That's refuted in the very first scene where Matt tells Owen, “it doesn't get better, it gets worse.”

Again though, having Matt and Owen be victims of bullying is never used to excuse their actions, but it makes THE DIRTIES one of the few movies that dares to take a look at what motivates these kids. It's more comfortable to demonize them, but clearly director Johnson doesn't want you to be comfortable.

For that reason alone, THE DIRTIES is a must-see. Granted, no matter how interesting a take on the material it is, it's still a subject that's taboo in movies. It figures that while THE DIRTIES is probably better than a lot of the movies that played Sundance this year, it by-passed the festival, and went to Slamdance instead. It's certainly a hard-sell to audiences, but it's a useful film that shines a light on a terrible phenomena. None other than Kevin Smith is participating in it's release, so unlike a lot of other indies I've seen that have slipped into the ether, this one you'll actually have a chance to check out. It's incredibly disturbing, and guaranteed to rattle your cage. Then again, sometimes that's necessary.

Extra Tidbit: Make sure to check-out the amazing end credits.
Source: JoBlo.com

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-4
2:41AM on 10/01/2013
So, am I to assume that they do, in fact, attempt a school shooting? That is never made clear in the trailer. I sure hope this review isn't spoiling that, because if it is, for shame. The main questions raised in the trailer are how far they go, but I guess, going by this review, they go all the way. So, thanks for that. Still interested, but I am disappointed you would go so into detail about how far this film takes us.
So, am I to assume that they do, in fact, attempt a school shooting? That is never made clear in the trailer. I sure hope this review isn't spoiling that, because if it is, for shame. The main questions raised in the trailer are how far they go, but I guess, going by this review, they go all the way. So, thanks for that. Still interested, but I am disappointed you would go so into detail about how far this film takes us.
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9:54AM on 09/30/2013
The questions this movie seems to be raising is based on a misconception. I don't know of too many school shootings where the motivation was revenge from being bullied. The guy who shot up Virginia Tech was not bullied. Cho was disturbed and had issues. As for the Columbine shooters, while they might have been bullied or could have just been unpopular, bullying is not what motivated them to shoot up their school. After the shooting started, they made their way to the library and began to kill
The questions this movie seems to be raising is based on a misconception. I don't know of too many school shootings where the motivation was revenge from being bullied. The guy who shot up Virginia Tech was not bullied. Cho was disturbed and had issues. As for the Columbine shooters, while they might have been bullied or could have just been unpopular, bullying is not what motivated them to shoot up their school. After the shooting started, they made their way to the library and began to kill the kids there also. Do you think a library is a hangout spot for bullies? On top of that, they made preparations to blow the school up. They wanted to cause as much devastation as possible for the sole purpose of being famous. It sounds to me this movie doesn't get it right and just perpetuates the reoccurring hollywood theme, where the villain commits a heinous act only after being wronged.
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11:45PM on 10/04/2013
great analogy. you got a psyche degree with that load of crap
great analogy. you got a psyche degree with that load of crap
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