Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    NEW PORT SOUTH

    Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

    Sound formats: Dolby Digital / DTS / SDDS

    An unhappy student (Blake Shields) is prompted into rebellion against his teachers by what he sees as the mean-spirited bureaucracy of high school life, and his anarchy is fuelled by the story of a former student who appears to have been institutionalized against his will by an aggressive school administration.

    An ode to conformity. Written by James Hughes (son of John) and directed by Kyle Cooper, NEW PORT SOUTH is an odd but intriguing film, in which Shields and his cohorts are roused to action by a series of unconnected incidents which begin to form a recognizable pattern of manipulation and tyranny by teachers against students. However, those drawn by the promise of seeing Authority Humbled are in for a nasty surprise: By concealing the truth of what happened to the former student whose incarceration sparks Shields' crusade, Hughes is able to fashion a climactic twist which completely undermines the central narrative, though not before Shields is unmasked as a tyrant-in-waiting, no better than the uncaring faculty he seeks to denounce. In other words, rules are there for a reason, no matter how petty they may seem, or how belligerently they may be applied by malicious teachers exercising a Hitler complex, while rebellion - no matter how well-intentioned - breeds corruption and anarchy. So knuckle down, kids - do as you're told, accept the disrespectful way you're treated by some of your teachers, and whatever you do, DON'T ROCK THE BOAT...

    All dubious sermonizing aside, the movie is ignited by its strong cast of talented newcomers, including Shields as the increasingly disaffected protagonist (his showdown with snotty history teacher Todd Field crackles with real tension), and Will Estes as the aspiring artist forced to choose between obedience to his teachers or the moral uncertainty of his friends' rebellion. Curiously, director Cooper doesn't exploit Estes' teen idol good looks and refuses to indulge a romantic subplot with Estes' fellow student Melissa George, who hovers on the sidelines like an afterthought. However, despite its skewed viewpoint and a couple of confusing narrative leaps - one of the school jocks rallies too quickly to The Cause after being humiliated in a fight which ends with him having a staple-gun fired into his face, and there's a near-riot which erupts for no obvious reason during the final sequence - the movie is compelling in its own quiet way, and cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchía makes a real virtue of the wintry Illinois locations.