(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)
Why I added it to my queue: Because this is the latest by the always contentious Joel Schumacher (St. Elmo's Fire, Flatliners, Batman Forever, The Number 23 and so much more), using a cast of unknowns to adapt a notorious 2002 novel about spoiled upper-class Manhattan teenage drug addicts, written by a real-life teenager who was actually in that scene. Plus you see 50 Cent's ass!
The reality: Pretty great, actually, but only if you're willing to acknowledge it for what it is -- a deliberately over-the-top Grand-Guignol-style morality play, that is, just like Schumacher's similarly over-the-top "are snuff films real?" Grand Guignol morality play 8mm from a decade ago. And that's because this script sometimes clunks along rather artlessly, a sort of "Traffic"/Altmanesque look at a whole web of only casually related people all belonging to the same general social community, which sometimes works when a particular character is complex and interesting (say for example the Bieber-looking but tough dropout who actually runs to Harlem for large pickups [which is where 50 Cent comes in], then sells to the teens all the endless small bags of weed and meth, code-named here the "Twelve" of the movie's title), but sometimes results in rather literal cardboard cutouts of characters, pawns who nakedly exist only to serve some kind of specific purpose in the sometimes overly convoluted plot. ("And here's the smart party girl who becomes such an addict, she bottoms out her trust fund and has to eventually turn to tricking.")
It results during most of the movie in an uneven but intriguing mix, definitely reaching its high points when showing the sort of endless looping around of Upper East Side Manhattan in the middle of the night this dealer "White Mike" has to do as part of his job, where we get to tantalizingly peek in at various mansion front doors at the partying excesses of the rich and famous, just to watch Mike quickly back on the dirty, overlit sidewalks again, musing sometimes legitimately poetically about the things he sees going on around him, passages that were obviously lifted directly from the surprisingly bestselling novel this was based on. But like I said, where it gets really great is at its end, where in typical Schumacher style things are ratcheted up to legitimate Grand Guignol levels, a sort of shockingly violent climax that is both expected and a surprise, one that knows it's deliberately over-the-top but that kind of earns it too. Like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, it's a movie I would undoubtedly have loved a lot more passionately if I were eighteen right now and seeing it, a sometimes clunky but sometimes very smart look at the very real dark underbelly of this usually brightly shining world of Paris Hilton and people like her. Sharp and sexy but a bit stupid too -- basically Schumacher's entire career in a nutshell -- it comes recommended to those willing to cut it a little slack while watching it.
Worth your time? Kinda