Dir: W. Peter Lliff
Starring: Wes Bentley, Kate Maberly, Chritian Slater, Stephen Dorff
I’ll start by saying this, Rites Of Passage is not a good film, and I expected better from someone whose writing credits include Point Break and Under Suspicion although they do also include Prayer Of The Rollerboys. W. Peter Lliff’s Rites Of Passage is as I understand it a bit of a passion project between himself and Rick Halsey, so why isn’t it better? Perhaps they were on the same thing Wes Bentley’s character was when the script was written and the film was shot, I have no idea but at least it would provide an excuse for this mess. I mean I felt no passion or effort with this film; the script was horrible as was everything else.
The plot here barely makes any sense or holds itself together, running off on not really one main plot but several and sub-plots that get completely forgotten about and other bits that don’t get explained. We have a group of anthropology students who go to spend the weekend at a classmate’s family’s ranch, supposedly to recreate an ancient ceremony aka take drugs, drink alcohol and go crazy. Meanwhile said classmate’s brother Benny (Wes Bentley) lives there and is always high on Jimsonweed, keeps looking for a ‘bride’. Then we have torture soul Delgado (Christian Slater) who has gone slightly mad after his wife and child were killed in a car accident after a drunk driving student (surprise she is there celebrating with everyone else) crashed into them. He goes crazy enough to want to hunt the students down, while talking to his imaginary monkey. Oh and Stephen Dorff shows up and then disappears.
If that barely made any sense, I apologise, it all really doesn’t make much sense. You have these side characters, one kidnapping women and one who goes crazy enough to kill, all the while the rest of the group don’t notice and their reason for being there is silly, I think we the audience would buy this annoying group as simply going away to party. Not one of the college students is likable, they are all despicable people and I am not sure why we were meant to care they were getting killed off, it was apparent Christian Slater’s character was doing us all a favour. The students have stupid and pointless sub-plots which are basically there so the girls can get down to next to nothing which I am sure was meant as a distraction so we wouldn’t notice how this film made no sense.
I get that there was an attempt at making this kind of a dark comedy but the fact it takes things so seriously made that a fail. In fact the only thing that was sort of funny was Slater and his madness yet when you think about why he was there, it suddenly isn’t so funny. He’s meant to be an antagonist sort of character, but he’s the one suffering after such a great loss and he only goes crazy after he sees the person who crashed into his wife and child out free at the ranch. And then they try and make this girl one of the protagonists, someone we are meant to feel sorry for, film I don’t think so, I have zero sympathies for anyone who gets behind the wheel drunk and then kills two people and survives and walks away free. Poor judgement there folks!
The performances were painful to take, I think Slater and Bentley at least had fun with it, and Dorff wasn’t there long enough to do anything aside from flirt with students (he’s their professor) and take his shirt off. The students were so dreadful; I was yelling “off with their heads” well before Slater’s character even started the favour, again not a good sign.
I went into this film with an open mind and I expected something decent, but what I got was an unwatchable mess that I probably would show someone to torture them.
The Australian DVD:
The DVD I reviewed was a screener, so I am unable to comment on Picture/Audio quality.
DVD details here.
Thanks to Bill, care of Eagle Entertainment for the copy.
This is a solid review of what I just watched. It was terrible.
This film delivered what it promised to its college age demographic. My domestic and international students and I had the great opportunity to watch it in the town it was set in. and where my students are living and learning..Santa Barbara. It was a non-stop thriller…the acting, directing, editing, and writing were superb. My students and I loved it!
I’m glad you and the students enjoyed it. I clearly did not think much of it and it had potential.