Film Review: Girls Against Boys

Nasty, stylish take on a gaggle of attractive, young, romance-seeking Manhattanites behaving from bad to grotesquely worse is often shamefully appealing in spite of its giant Bronx cheer to logic and reality.

The good news regarding filmmaker Austin Chick’s (XX/XY, August) loopy comic-book crime and horror riff on New York’s twenty-something downtown mating game is that Girls Against Boys is quite watchable. It also dances to a nifty music soundtrack stretching beyond the film’s many happening club scenes and leaves all serious considerations at coat check. The bad news is that satisfying emotional tugs and intellectually credible motivations—except for glaring insanity and pathological revenge—don’t get past the velvet rope. Chalk this one up as another guilty cinematic pleasure which got its hipster stamp as an official 2012 SXSW selection.

The story, a revenge-powered folie à deux, kicks off with Manhattan college student Shae (Danielle Panabaker) expecting a getaway to the Hamptons with her wealthy married older lover Terry (Andrew Howard), but instead getting the bum’s rush from the bum. Hammered by being so unceremoniously dumped and by similar acts by other suitors, Shae shares her anger and grief with Lu (Nicole LaLiberte), her toxic co-worker at the trendy club where they bartend.

Lu’s idea of revenge goes beyond reason and credibility but makes for a frenetic plot journey, as the two embark on a murderous assault on some very unfortunate men who cross their paths. These include not only poor Terry but Simon (Michael Stahl-David), one of three guys the women meet at a club. After a long night of excess, Simon takes Shae home and has his way with her in the hallway of her walkup apartment. A lot of screaming and protest goes on, but Shae’s neighbors seem to live in apartments walled with soundproof padding. Lu accompanies her friend to file a report at the local precinct, where another unwitting victim materializes.

Bodies pile up in normally low-crime areas like the West Village and the amazingly fearless women somehow make them disappear and remain beyond suspicion. (If only some of those “Law & Order” officers had been on this beat.) Suspense is not the strong card here, except that surrounding where the heck the filmmaker will take his nutty anti-heroines and their bloody killing spree.

The women’s friendship does fray as bodies mount and lines are crossed. Shae makes a small turn into survival mode and even finds a nice, sweet, scooter-riding boyfriend, Tyler (Liam Aiken). Can this last? The plot, taking twists and turns and offering at least one interesting revelation, is further proof that matters of revenge and retribution can perk up just about any story.

Performances are fine all around, and Panabaker and LaLiberte are certainly committed to playing characters who should be committed. Who cares if such extreme behavior and story elements need explanation when we’re having fun, even if cheap fun? And caps off to the the Arri Alexa’s dreamy capture of a poetic, and often poetically bloody, Manhattan.