Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Exposing our juvenile correctional facilities: Vincent Grashaw's grim 'n glum COLDWATER


When a teenager (played by P.J. Boudousqué, looking considerably older than a high schooler) is rousted from his bed one early morning and, with his mother's consent, handcuffed and taken off to one of those for-profit juvenile cor-rectional facilities that seem to be sprouting up here and there, COLDWATER, the new film by Vincent Grashaw, gets under way. Initially, neither the facility nor the ex-Marine in charge looks so bad. But of course, we've seen a few movies of this ilk previously, and sure enough, before long the evil is revealed.

To his credit, filmmaker Grashaw, shown at right, who both directed and co-wrote the screenplay (with Mark Penney) makes it clear pretty quickly that our boy Brad (M. Boudousqué, shown below) needs some help. Out of control, selling drugs, threatening his mom and her man and generally being an asshole to nearby adults, he's a prime candidate for some kind of "intervention."

Soon, we're seeing bonding among the inmates (along with some non-bonding) and being inundated with flashbacks that will slowly fill us in on just how bad a boy our Brad really was. The more flashbacks we get, the worse this kid looks.

Coldwater, which doubles as the name of the detention "ranch" (and triples as the stuff that comes out of the fire hoses the guards use on our boys when they misbehave), is a sincere plea for better-run Juvenile Rehab Centers. Whatever you finally think of this movie, I believe you'll find Mr Grashaw's main point well-taken: There is not nearly enough oversight at most of these facilities. While this is commendable, I wish the movie were better-conceived and -executed.

It contains all the cliches of the Prison genre (which, junior-style, the movie definitely is): good looking young inmates, abusive guards, forced marches (above), escape attempts, punishments, and so on. We have the usual beatings and torture but no rape (it'd have to be a Catholic Church-run institution for that, right?).

Then about 45 minutes into this 99-minutes movie, we get a title card reading "Year 2," and our hopes seem about to be dashed. Sure enough, around the one-hour point, everyone begins to lose it -- inmates, guards, and particularly the camp's commandant -- and events become so arbitrary (what happens, why and how) that you'll pretty much need to place your critical faculties on hold.

The movie finally morphs into mystery-thriller mode, with a "surprise" ending that you may not care much about by that point. Performances by the entire cast are as good as they can be under the circumstance of a screenplay that keep pulling all the stops farther and farther out -- until you notice them lying there on the floor at your feet.

Standouts in the cast would include Boudousqué, who's perfectly OK, as is James C. Burns (above) as the seemingly conflicted Commander-in-Chief, Chris Petrovski  (below, left, and recently seen in All Cheerleaders Die) as Brad's best friend, and Octavius J. Johnson as the necessary minority inmate, who is very badly treated. (Yes, racism in California is still alive and flourishing.)

Coldwater, from Breaking Glass Pictures, opens theatrically this Friday, August 15, in Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, Pasadena, Portland (Oregon) and Phoenix, with further openings in Hollywood and Toronto the following Friday, August 22. Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters listed.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

How can you say there was no raping involved in this movie? There is a scene with one boy yelling for help in the background while being raped, then followed by showing the next boy undressing and starting to get raped.

James van Maanen said...

Sorry, Anon, but I don't remember that particular scene, but it was well over a year ago that I saw this film. It may also be that, because I saw an advance screener of the movie, that scene wasn't there for some reason. Or maybe you're just more perceptive than I about what is going on in the background and what this actually means. Anyway, thanks for commenting, and if I ever get the opportunity to see the movie again, I will watch for the scene. And feel abashed that I missed it.