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Twenty-somethings here are playing SoCal high-schoolers who talk like they are on the set of The Maltese Falcon; but it’s not Bugsy Malone with a slightly older cast, and it’s not sort-of-like film noir, either. This is a film noir, complete with a Gordian knot of a plot, gritty textures half-concealed in darkness, and telegraphed archetypes (the loner, the vamp, the femme fatale).

The teenagers seem parentless—save for a comic relief scene or two featuring the mom of our archetypal kingpin serving the boys cookies and OJ—and the few other adults in the world treat them as equals. Clearly a fantasy, but you will have suspended your disbelief long before then.

It fares well when compared to the competition—but then, most of it had been made in the 1940s, so I wouldn’t call it a fair fight.

Directed by Rian Johnson, 2005

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