Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 21, 2013)
With a title like Girls Against Boys, a movie can go in a number of different directions. Bawdy college comedy? Perky Disney Channel series? Quirky action movie?
In this case, none of the above, as Boys offers a violent revenge drama. College student Shae (Danielle Panabaker) dates much older Terry (Andrew Howard) and plans to trek with him for a weekend in the Hamptons. However, he cancels this because he breaks up with her to reconcile with his family – a wife and kid he never revealed to Shae.
After her shift as a bartender, Shae breaks down, and new co-worker Lu (Nicole LaLiberte) tries to console her. To perk up Shae’s spirits, they hit a club after work, and initially this seems to help. Shae and Lu go back to an apartment shared by a couple of guys, and Shae appears to connect with Simon (Michael Stahl-David).
When Shae has second thoughts about the course of the evening, she decides to head home, and Simon escorts her. When she spurns his advances, “nice guy” Simon gets violent and rapes Shae.
Shae tries to turn to others for help but finds little assistance, and matters get worse when she approaches Terry; he assumes she just wants some action, and his ham-fisted attempts to “romance” her just make things worse.
Eventually Shae and Lu report Simon’s crime to the police, but this doesn’t go well for her. The cops offer little assistance, so Lu suggests that they take the law into their own hands. Shae seems reluctant to do this, but Lu – who seems hell bent on revenge against all men – convinces her to take this course of action. We follow their quest and the body count that ensues as well as the evolution of their relationship.
Cross Thelma and Louise with Straw Dogs plus a little Fatal Attraction and you get Girls Against Boys. In terms of tone, that comes as a surprise, for I expected something much campier from Boys. Based on the press materials I saw, I got the impression it’d be more of a rowdy “B”-movie ala Bitch Slap.
The expected giddy romp never emerges, as Boys remains surprisingly low-key. I appreciate that side of the film, but I find the derivative nature of the film to be somewhat off-putting. Boys really wears its influences on its sleeve, and it lacks much consistency. It never seems quite sure what kind of movie it wants to be, and that uncertainty undermines it, especially during its third act.
Prior to that, it has its moments. Actually, the first two acts are reasonably good. They can move a little slowly, but they create a creepy tone and pay off well when Lu’s inner psycho emerges. She’s a scary character and LaLiberte plays her well.
Indeed, LaLiberte becomes the best thing about Boys. She delivers a chilling performance as the obsessed psycho femme fatale and adds genuine spark to the film.
Unfortunately, Panabaker proves to be less memorable. She displays little expressiveness as Shae and can’t produce any inner life, either. A veteran of horror films, Panabaker seems okay when required to do little more than scream and run, but when asked to play a more dimensional role, she feels flat. She possesses two expressions, and neither one seems believable.
I guess two-thirds of a pretty interesting movie beats one-third or no-third, but I must admit the final act of Boys disappoints. For its initial hour or so, it manages a creepy, involving little psycho flick, but then it peters out and loses its path. I still think there’s enough meat here to merit a viewing, but I wish it’d found a better way to finish – and brought us a more talented lead actress.