By Kevin Kelly (reprinted from 2/12/10 -- Sundance Film Festival)
Poor Joel Schumacher. It just seems that no matter what happens with the rest of his career, he's never going to live down the bat-nipples incident. Sometimes when Schumacher works with relatively much smaller budgets (Phone Booth, Tigerland) he tends to shine brightly enough to wash any taste of Batman & Robin out of our mouths. I mean, this is the guy who directed The Lost Boys, and Flatliners, and wrote the screenplay for The Wiz. Which is why when we heard he had a film coming to Sundance, we began to pep up. After all, that meant it would be a low budget, and a return to Schumacher of days past, right?
Wrong. Instead we were given Twelve, a movie that closed the Sundance Film Festival, and our interest in future Schumacher movies. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Nick McDonnell, who was 17 years old when he wrote it, and when Publisher's Weekly calls an author "precocious," I usually take that as a warning sign. That means, "Gee, isn't he cute? Just wait until he grows up," and the source material definitely reflects that. Schumacher didn't make any adjustments to the story, and as a result this feels like a very special episode of Gossip Girl.
This is due in no small part to Chace Crawford, one of the leads from Gossip Girl, who plays lead character White Mike in Twelve. Mike's life changed when his mother died of breast cancer, and he dropped out of high school to sell drugs. Now he walks between the underworld and the world of the spoiled rotten, dealing drugs. He knows most of the people he deals to, and he has equal footing in both circles as a cool guy. The guy to know, at least when you need a fix. There's a dear sweet hanger on girl from his former life who doesn't know he's a drug dealer, and she clearly pines for her. Of course, he ignores her flat out.
There's also a new drug on the street called Twelve, which comes in glass vials and is meant to be some sort of a cross between cocaine and ecstasy. It's highly addictive, and it's something White Mike won't sell. However, when his cousin gets killed in a botched robbery while attempting to score some, and his best friend gets picked up for the murder, White Mike's world gets turned upside down. The film drags on inexorably through garish set pieces, theatrical scenes that look like they take place on stage, tedious and pointless character development, and subplots that go nowhere.
The problem is that no one care. This is a movie full of celebutarts whining about their birthday parties, blowing cash left and right, and doing just about everything possible to make you care less about them. By the time the bloody and violent climax comes, you welcome it because at least there is finally something happening onscreen. Actress Emily Meade is the one bright spot in this convoluted mess, and her portrayal of a rich bitch who gets strung out on Twelve is fantastic. People have been remarking that Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson did a good job, but he's playing a drug dealer here. Is that a stretch? Give this man something to do besides wear a baseball cap and tote a gun. I'd like to see what he could really do with a role.
Ultimately, Twelve is just a boring mess about "poor" rich kids who have it rough, trying to score drugs, or one of their own who has a tough life as a drug dealer. If you want a real movie that examines the rich and spoiled kids in New York City, check out Whit Stillman's Metropolitan. Yes, it's 20 years old (good lord, is that right?!), but it nails it right on the head, and you actually care about his characters. Ironically, Sundance showed Metropolitan as part of their "From The Collection" category. That's just like rubbing salt in our Twelve wounds, Sundance.