the basic premise of the movie is this: a group of overachieving honor roll students enter a life of crime that spirals out of control. the main character is ben manibag (parry shen, whom some of you might have seen in that classic movie the new guy), typical college-bound high school kid, perpetually studying for achievement tests, joins all the right clubs, volunteers as a spanish translator at the hospital, has an afterschool job working at a fast food joint, even earns a spot on the basketball team. his best friend virgil (jason tobin) is kind of this out-of-control horny troublemaker, but he's smart as well, just doesn't put in the effort like ben. virgil's older cousin han (sung kang) initially starts them onto the life of crime, swindling department stores by buying up merchandises then later returning the empty boxes. the theory seems sound: because they're such straight-laced students (at least ben is, virgil, and very much han, seem destined for criminality), nobody would ever suspect them. ben gets involved with daric (roger fan), the big man on campus, president of all the clubs, confident, charismatic, good-looking. he initially gets ben to make cheat sheets from stolen tests ($50/pop), but then daric hooks up with virgil and han and the four of them start moving onto bigger scores, including drug dealing and eventually murder (i didn't spoil anything for you, at the start of the movie we see the dead guy). ben's life is further complicated by his crush on stephanie, a girl in his biology class, who's dating this rich, arrogant, ivy-league-bound snob steve.
the movie is an interesting study on how seemingly good kids can go bad. on the surface, they couldn't be more normal, but bounded by conformity, by what's the right thing to do (study hard, get good grades) instead of what they want to do, underneath they're a seething swell of rebellion. ben lacks confidence, and can't help but to go along with what daric wants him to do, despite the fact that prior to meeting daric, ben was already a small time crook of his own. virgil is much like ben as well, except he hides his insecurities beneath a veneer of mock bravado. his cousin han is harder to read, and initially he seems like the worst of the bunch, but later during the movie you realize he's actually very thoughtful and isn't reckless like his younger cousin virgil. daric is an enigma as well, but he seems to understand how the system works, and he does what he does because he knows he can get away it. steve on the otherhand, who periodically interacts with ben ("i want you to take stephanie to the prom for me," he tells him), seems to have almost everything, yet he reveals to ben that he's not happy. maybe it would've been interesting to see how the social-economic differences between these two groups of disillusioned kids might've played out, or maybe not even include a "steve" character, because it adds another dimension to the film that wasn't explored enough.
this film reminded me of a lot of other movies about high school kids who commit murder and ends up hiding the truth, the classic one being heathers, but also the river's edge, and jawbreaker (jawbreaker was pretty much a tribute to heathers though). there's even one scene where the four kids are walking down the hall of their high school, and the camera goes dramatic with a slow-motion shot, a la heathers. another message i got out of the film is the effect that guns have on kids. guns empower them, instills confidence, hides weaknesses. early in the movie, daric draws a gun on a rowdy jock at a party (which instantly establishes their street cred the following school day as the news is whispered throughout the halls), and on the car ride back, virgil is both exhilarated and terrified of the experience, laughing estatically at first then bursting into tears later. it's a very powerful part of the movie, and after that event, it's like they've crosses the line into full criminality, and thus the descent into the eventual murder, sort of the ultimate transgression.
kids have problems, and sometimes these problems translate into violence against themselves and others. there are those kids who are perpetually picked on in school and one day they turn the table around and go on a rampage, a la columbine. you won't see a movie like that though, it hits too close to home, and parents and government groups would put up such an uproar. then there are the kids who turn to crime in order to fullfill some sort of need, and crimes are naturally illicit which begets violence, so as a result, there might be killings, but that's okay, that's within the context of criminals, and criminals are supposed to be bad. i'm not sure what's the point i'm trying to make, but i just thought i'd throw that one out.
the movie is also weird in that they seem to exist in this surreal world where there are no adults. i only noticed it after the movie. the one adult character i can remember was actually a cameo by jerry mathers as the biology teacher, which is ironic, because jerry mathers is famous for playing a child, aka the beaver.
i think it's an interesting movie, a lot of fuel for thought, not so deep that it's hard to digest intellectually, it's a nice film to watch and discuss later. i'd recommend it if you find the story appealing.