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Girls Against Boys

2012 | 93 min | R | 1.85:1

Girls Against Boys


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Theatrical release date

 01 February, 2013

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Girls Against Boys Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, January 31, 2013

Feminism meets exploitation in Austin Chick’s “Girls Against Boys,” a particularly nasty revenge feature that attempts to explore a rattled psychological space as it indulges in murders and a few grisly acts of vengeance. It’s not particularly consistent or profound work from the “XX/XY” filmmaker, but the effort has a certain style that holds interest, scored to a throbbing range of soundtrack cuts that provide an electronic pulse to otherwise banal events. Sure to divide audiences with its fuzzy math and swing of the intellectual wiffle ball bat, “Girls Against Boys” is best appreciated as a sensorial experience, with the script successfully brushing against raw nerve endings of sympathy and rage.

Shae (Danielle Panabaker) is a mild-mannered college student engaged in a relationship with Terry (Andrew Howard), a much older man. After revealing the presence of his wife and child, Terry dumps Shae, leaving the young woman shattered, pouring the anger into her work as a nightclub bartender. Bonding with mysterious fellow employee Lu (Nicole LaLiberte), Shae agrees to the wild child’s plan for a drunken night of club-hopping, with the pair soon greeting a trio of men, including Simon (Michael Stahl-David). Flirtations rise but follow-throughs are cut short, pushing Simon to sexual assault to sustain power over Shae. Feeling vulnerable and enraged, Shae takes Lu up on her offering of revenge, visiting everyone who’s wronged the student with a loaded gun, working their way to Simon’s Brooklyn apartment. At first delighted with the satisfaction of murder, Shae grows concerned with Lu’s possessiveness when she meets a shy classmate (Liam Aiken), triggering jealousy in her aggressive pal that could lead to a higher body count.

“Girls Against Boys” doesn’t contain an original story, with movies such as “Ms. 45,” “Fight Club,” and “Baise-moi” essentially covering the same terrain when it comes to revenge fantasies and impressionable innocents pushed into the dark side of personal satisfaction. Chick (last seen with 2008’s “August”) attempts to dress up the experience in a liquid feel of immersion, studying Shae’s despair through extended takes scored to beat-heavy music that accentuates the sensation of isolation and confusion. Working with a limited budget, Chick does a fine job creating atmosphere for the feature, making the viewer feel as lost as a main character, with visual cues adding to a sense of disorientation and suspicion. The surface appeal of “Girls Against Boys” comes in handy, permitting entrance into an otherwise confused odyssey of gender volatility and grindhouse shenanigans.

Men are a particular poison in Chick’s script, with most of the male characters singled out as vile, predatory ghouls who rape and demean, while the one truly kind soul Shae meets along the way is basically as unthreatening as can be. “Girls Against Boys” isn’t hunting for a balanced perspective on men and women, instead shooting for provocative encounters that trigger audience ire, with manipulation a primary tool in Chick’s bag of tricks. This is no deconstruction of a flattened psyche, but a borderline horror picture with bloody gunplay and amputated limbs, using disturbing violence to unnerve, developing Shae’s desires to a point of unimaginable ugliness, rivaling the acts of the male characters. However, the similarity isn’t explored in full, as much of “Girls Against Boys” appears terrified to inspect the ramifications of the killing spree beyond its nightmarish ornamentation. And early teasing of feminist teachings during Shae’s studies at college is left unfulfilled, supplying an intriguing twist to the proceedings Chick doesn’t pursue.

“Girls Against Boys” ultimately works in feral mode, watching Shae and Lu take on the rat bastards of NYC with initial remorselessness, blasting away punks who carelessly step on the delicate souls of young women. It’s not a sharp feature, but it’s persuasive in key moments, while Panabaker and LaLiberte make a convincing pair of monsters. The conclusion is a bit of a gimme and telegraphed through the movie, but “Girls Against Boys” has moments of inspired mental submersion and wretched behavior. However, any attempt to provide lasting meaning to the mayhem falls disappointingly short.

Starring: Danielle Panabaker, Nicole LaLiberte, Liam Aiken
Director: Austin Chick

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Girls Against Boys (2013) 23 Mar 07, 2013

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