assassination“Forget it, Funke. It’s high school.

Brett Simon’s Assassination Of A High School President, which is receiving an undeserved direct to DVD release after its distributor’s bankruptcy, starts out a little too satisfied with its own cleverness, but once it finds its own groove, it turns into a funny, fast paced entertainment, ranking up there with the best high school satires and comedies. Like the much more serious minded Brick, it offers up the high school experience through a film noirish lens, though Assassination‘s primary influences come from 70’s investigative and conspiracy thrillers like All The President’s Men and The Parallax View, with a heavy dose of Heathers and nods to both Lindsay Anderson’s If… and Chinatown. The deliberately anachronistic story focuses on an aspiring school newspaper writer, sophomore Bobby Funke (Reece Thompson), who finds himself elevated to the top of the popularity ladder when he is asked to investigate the disappearance of the school’s SAT tests by senior Francesca Facchini (Mischa Barton). When the trail leads to Francesca’s boyfriend, Paul Moore (Patrick Taylor), things start to get complicated for Funke. The plot is secondary here, however, as mystery lovers will figure out key elements of the resolution, though in true The Big Sleep fashion, the complete solution is so involved that virtually no viewers will be able to work it out ahead of time. Aside from some terrific dialogue, it’s the performances that really make the movie, particularly from Thompson and Barton, but also from Bruce Willis, who does a funny turn as a principal driven and obsessed with his military past. It’s also got a terrific soundtrack, one of the best I’ve heard in a long time. With the utter garbage that routinely makes it to the big screen on a weekly basis, it’s hard to comprehend why Assassination Of A High School President wasn’t picked up by another distributor and given a chance at least a limited theatrical release. It’s one of my favorite movies of the year, just the same, and it’s very much recommended.

MONKEY RATING: ONE ASSASSIN MONKEY

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

Vantage Point is an effective action/conspiracy thriller, no more, no less. It’s not out to make a great statement about the war on terror, though it’s set during a international summit on the war on terror being held in Spain, nor is it much on character development, though it’s got a solid cast, headed by Dennis Quaid and William Hurt. The plot involves an assassination attempt on the President of the United States, and the movie shows the same twenty-three minutes of the attempt, seen through the eyes of various characters, thus the title Vantage Point. It’s a bit like 24 done like Run Lola Run, except unlike that latter film, the events remain the same every time the movie quite literally rewinds itself, although audiences get a bit more information with every viewing, and finally learn everything by the end. There’s not a lot of depth here, but I don’t think that was ever the point, really: Vantage Point is exciting, suspenseful popcorn entertainment, and I had a good time watching it.

MONKEY RATING: TWO MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)