During the exploitation heyday of the 70’s with films like “Shaft”, “Vanishing Point” and “Foxy Brown”, there was a boom of not so subtle of low budget violence, sex and revenge. They weren’t terribly gory however they were darkly twisted and surrounded by humor, whether it was intentional or not. Now, with the advent of consumer grade HD cameras, all one needs is some capable lighting and a vengeance fueled scripts and these exploitation films can boom again in a neo-exploitative way. These films may not be missing frames and be littered with scratches but the roots are the same. “Girls Against Boys” fit into this. The title alone begs to let it into the exploitation clubhouse.
The film stars Danielle Panabaker as Shae, an ordinary college woman living a normal life except for the fact she is dating a married man. On the same night she is supposed to go away with him, he tells her they have to break it off. This is also the first time she hears that he has a child as well. To his credit, he does it gently and as humanely as possible but she still takes it hard. Instead of sulking she goes to her night job bartending at a noisy club. There she breaks down in a back stairwell and that is when she meets Lu (Nicole LaLiberte), an attractive girl her age that has a wild side. Together they go out and hit the clubs hard to help cheer Shae up. Unfortunately, things do not go well for Shae and after a brutal assault by a man, her and Lu decide to distribute their own brand of justice.
Okay, I’ll say this first. This is a nicely shot and professional looking movie. This is not a scratchy affair with ladies up to no good while wearing high heels and short shorts. There is artistic flair strewn throughout the running time. Director Austin Chick does a nice job conveying that lonely time right after a breakup. Several contemplative shots of Panabaker convey this nicely. These moments of slow motion grandeur do look beautiful. Chick also has a good handle on the young club scene. There is a nice authenticity to the patrons yelling loudly over the thumping techno to order drink and the many bartenders reactions.
Unfortunately, there are too many other things dragging the film down. First off, it’s just not that pleasant of a movie. They are some tough scenes to watch and there is only one semi humorous (twisted) scene to counter all of it. Chick needs to learn the art of levity. Old exploitation films had dark humor to subvert the violence which helped distance it from reality. The film goes along it’s dark path and then takes more twisted turn. Shae goes from being relatively normal to looney tunes very quickly. Perhaps it could hint at latent homicidal tendencies but in this case I think Chick just plain old rushed it. There are too many directorial conveniences as well. Apartment neighbors (if there are any) apparently never hear any screaming that happens right outside their door. It seems like no one is around when they are needed. And to this, Chick makes everyone an asshole. It seems like they are callous to Shae’s plight, whether they are medical staff after Shae’s assault or the cops writing up the report. The last third of the film feels like one cliché after another. We’re talking Lifetime Movie type clichés, especially the ending.
The 1080P image is good albeit a bit dark throughout. A lot of the movie takes place at night or within dark confines which mutes the color pallette with none standing out. The 1.78:1 frame opens up the picture nicely filling the field of vision with Chick’s created world. A Red Epic camera was used and the detail in most scenes is great. It is not reference quality but good for the budget.
“Girls Against Boys” shines with a thumping Dolby True HD 5.1 track. Although this is mostly a talky film, there are several scenes filled with club music and it sounds beautiful. The LFE comes alive with bass fueled beats in every channel. Dialogue sounds perfectly fine and is never a problem. Directionality is not widely used but when it is it sounds natural. The track is the best part of the disc.
The sole extra is a commentary track with Chick and Panabaker. There are some nice bits of information but there are many moments of long silences as well. They talk about character motivations and the shooting process. Overall, it is an average commentary track.
“Girls Against Boys” has it’s nice moments but there are too many directorial conveniences taken to help the story go where Chick wants it to go. He does have talent for filming the “in the moment” scenes but he misses in this film with creating a natural and realistic story arc for his characters. The video and audio are pretty darn good for it’s low budget means. With only one extra and not that compelling of a story, this disc is recommended as a rental for those who like revenge films.