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Crime and Punishment in Suburbia

Welcome to the generic streets of suburbia, U.S.A., where even revenge, murder and teen sex can be boring.


Popular high-schooler Roseanne (Monica Keena) seems to have everything -- looks, money, a hunky football-player beau (James DeBello), even a smitten admirer who spends his time taking pictures of her (Vincent Kartheiser). Then Mom (Ellen Barkin) gets involved in an interracial affair, and wounded Dad (Michael Ironside) directs his pain and pent-up sexual energy in an unhealthy direction. Before you know it, people are thinking homicidal thoughts.


Ex-"Dawson's Creek" lollipop Keena contributes a baseline of sex appeal to the project, though the way she shifts from one unfiltered emotion to another like an acting-class exercise (fear! sadness! relief!) can be unintentionally funny. Kartheiser ("Another Day in Paradise") is endowed with more natural talent as a thespian, but his self-consciously smirky work as a romantic rebel grates on the nerves after a while. As if to highlight just how lost the young leads are in the swelling melodrama, the ever-commanding Jeffrey Wright ("Shaft") manages to make a strong impression, despite having no character to speak of, as the lover of Barkin's character.


Rob Schmidt ("Saturn") works overtime trying to pump some life into his second feature with a rough-edged look and driving alt-pop soundtrack, but his stylized execution can't disguise the lack of dramatic tension in Larry Gross' muddled script. While the film borrows its name and a few thematic licks from Dostoevsky's immortal bummer-of-a-novel "Crime and Punishment," the results on-screen play more like an assortment of mismatching "American Beauty" outtakes. Like the average angst-ridden teenager, the film is clueless about how to focus its boundless energy in a constructive direction.

Bottom Line

If Dostoevsky starts turning over in his grave, somebody show him this film so he can go back to sleep.


Starring Monica Keena, Ellen Barkin, Michael Ironside, Vincent Kartheiser and James DeBello.

Directed by Rob Schmidt. Produced by Pamela Koffler, Larry Gross and Christine Vachon. Screenplay adapted by Larry Gross. Released by United Artists.