Echoes of the student shootings at Columbine High School reverberate throughout Bang, Bang, You're Dead,
a non-exploitative examination of why kids kill.
Though not a documentary, the Showtime film could be — it rings that true. Viewers of any age will recognize the stereotypes here: the jocks, the brains and the disenchanted: Here they're branded "troglodytes," but they're certainly akin to Columbine's "trenchcoat mafia."
These teen archetypes were explored for laughs in The Breakfast Club.
But here, it is deadly serious in exploring the poisonous atmosphere of social strata and casual violence that exists in many high schools.
Trevor (a very intense Ben Foster) has been labeled a good kid gone bad. He's turned from incident-free student to "mad bomber" in the course of one year. Because his parents are busy yelling at him — and teachers are only interested in his educational experience — no one knows Trevor's troubles.
It begins one day when he's "trash canned" by jocks who carry an attitude of entitlement. It continues with near-daily hazing, behavior Trevor sees repeated on other, weaker students without punishment.
When he makes a comment construed as a death threat against football players, the victim is branded a perpetrator. He's now harassed by cops and school security and further shunned by fellow students. He learns to talk only to his video camera, although one teacher — drama instructor Val Duncan (Tom Cavanagh of Ed) — continues to work to bring Trevor back into the mainstream.
But Duncan's vehicle causes more pain: It's the play for which the film is named and will star Trevor as a high school killer.
When Trevor acts out again, producing a student film depicting murder, he's called before school officials. Police seize other tapes, including one documenting the daily attacks that occur in the school.
Finally, officials see what Trevor sees and go after the real perpetrators. But Trevor gets expelled, too, for violating "zero tolerance" with his murderous thoughts. The injustice of the officials nearly pushes Trevor to act upon his rage.
The most evocative part of the film is Trevor's tape. It so clearly renders his fear, frustration and anger that it should be part of teacher orientation.
Foster is explosive in essentially a one-note role.
Bang, Bang, You're Dead
debuts on Showtime on Oct. 13 at 8 p.m.