Girls Against Boys: Film Review

Exploitation-friendly indie isn't as psychologically probing or politically provocative as it hopes to be

Austin Chick's grindhouse-friendly film isn't as psychologically probing or politically provocative as it hopes to be.

The caddish behavior of a college student's married boyfriend indirectly triggers a killing spree in Austin Chick's indie drama-cum-exploitation flick Girls Against Boys. Taking pains to illuminate its gender-studies politics only to sabotage any feminist cred by making one of its heroines a flimsy psycho, the film plays like Thelma & Louise without the fun -- or, for that matter, the psychological credibility. Short skirts plus guns might help VOD sales after what should be a brief theatrical spin.

Danielle Panabaker plays Shae, a decent kid who learns her older boyfriend isn't nearly as far along in divorce proceedings as he has implied. Also, he has a kid. In a moment of distress after he dumps her, Shae bonds with redheaded stranger Lu (Nicole LaLiberte, aiming for unflappable cool but coming closer to affectlessness); the two go clubbing, get too drunk, and end up in a stranger's apartment with three guys who hope they're getting lucky.

PHOTOS: Todd McCarthy's 10 Best Movies of 2012

Chick's heavy use of sound design and slow-mo to conjure Shae's beat-down emotional state and bad-decisions haze prompts viewers to expect a deep dive into her psyche. But after one of her suitors crosses the line between horny pleading and assault, Shae quickly goes blank, letting Lu take her down an increasingly bloody path. Though the two women are ostensibly trying to track down the date-rapist and bring him to justice, Lu is shooting men left and right -- sometimes for making off-color comments, sometimes for nothing at all. The scenes of violence are sometimes staged as if for black comedy, sometimes as torture porn, but none have much shock value.

Beyond being awfully comfortable with the bathroom habits of his protagonists (three or four scenes offer shots of women on the toilet), Chick displays no particular insight into their experience as women; classroom scenes in which we overhear feminist theory are window dressing for a script that makes the combined sexual aggression of all its male characters look harmless compared to psychopathic female possessiveness.

Production Company: Floren Shieh Productions

Cast: Danielle Panabaker, Nicole LaLiberte, Liam Aiken, Michael Stahl-David, Andrew Howard, Matthew Rauch

Director-Screenwriter: Austin Chick

Producers: Clay Floren, Aimee Shieh

Executive producers:

Director of photography: Kathryn Westergaard

Production designer: Jeanelle Marie

Music: Nathan Larson

Costume designer: Kama K. Royz

Editor: Pete Beaudreau

R, 93 minutes