From the moment Joel Schumacher’s dour teens-in-crisis melodrama establishes its group of spoiled (and so, so unloved) Manhattan silver-spooners, you long for anything to leaven the tsk-tsk prurience. (Perhaps Paul Lynde popping up from a manhole and belting his get-off-my-lawn standard, “Kids.”) No such luck. This grim fable—narrated by Kiefer Sutherland, sounding like an unholy amalgam of beatnik poet and porn-theater masturbator—follows White Mike (Crawford), drug dealer to the Big Apple’s young elite. One of his contacts, Lionel (Jackson, a.k.a. 50 Cent), has a new product on the market: an Ecstasy-cocaine hybrid called Twelve.
Little does Mike know that his cousin was killed by Lionel over a batch of the stuff. In addition, his childhood friend Molly (Roberts) is trying to reinstate herself into his life, prompting him to whitewash his current activities. Schumacher films every lurid incident with a self-satisfied, moralizing relish, especially the raucous house party at which all the characters eventually collide. This is half-baked Larry Clark treated as if it were Picasso’s Guernica, which makes the few bright lights stand out all the more. Chief among these is Rory Culkin as an introverted pushover whose teary, traumatized reaction to his older brother going bullet-blasting psycho is one of the film’s few genuine moments. And Ellen Barkin has a enlivening cameo as a pearl-bedecked absentee mother—the only time when Schumacher’s wagging finger can’t contain the camp.—Keith Uhlich
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