Saturday, November 27, 2010

GIRLS RIOT (1983)

In spite of what the box art may promise, you will spill no seed to explicit scenes of scantily clad inmates violating lady guards with billy clubs. The closest thing we get to rioting in this film is an artful protest involving white grease paint and down feathers. I can understand why this movie is routinely savaged by cult film fans, but it’s the distributors’ fault for stuffing a lamb in wolf skin. If you don’t hold the film itself accountable for the box's false pretense, you still a get very watchable new wave JD drama.

The story doesn’t take place in a detention center of any sort, but instead focuses on the relationships occurring within a state home for troubled young girls, all of whom have been placed there by displeased parents. There is no solitary confinement. There are no rubber hoses. There are however a few community shower scenes, which might be redeeming if it weren’t for the fact that most of the girls are more distinct looking than they are attractive. In other words, they aren’t quite up to exploitation par. But once again, this isn’t really an exploitation film in spite of its marketing.

After an amusing bout of word association which introduces several of our main characters, the story begins as the girls form a folk singing barricade to permit the escape of young Agnes, who is spirited away by a pimp promising her the sky. During a grittier moment, which is more reserved than it could have been, the pimp takes Agnes to the construction site of what will be their skyscraper penthouse. He takes her to the top of the building, where a horde of weathered construction workers await her, all huddled around a rape mattress. After all is said and done, she gets her cut. That’s about as dark as it gets, and from this point on things brighten up, but remain just as colorful.

The rest of the story follows an ambitious social worker, Andrea, who begins work at the home. While the emotionally troubled head mistress of the school prefers to take a strict and clinical approach to handling the girls, Andrea is far more humane and her gentle nature is often taken advantage of. In fact, one girl in particular, Sonya, mistakes Andrea’s routine kindness for romantic affection, which causes all sorts of complications. Elke, the alpha girl of the group, initially resents Andrea, but over the course of the story they develop a bond.

Andrea takes interest in withdrawn newcomer Heidi around the same time thoroughly defeated gang bang bait Agnes returns. Heidi is obsessed with a powerful father figure, which prompts Andrea to take a risk and visit the young girl’s mother, who turns out to be a stripper that’s connected to the pimp that fed Agnes to the construction workers at the film’s start. The pimp apparently has express interest in Heidi as a commodity, and her mother put her in the home to keep her pure. The pimp follows Andrea back to the school to set up a finale where Agnes attempts to lead Heidi into the clutches of the pimp. However, Elke tips Andrea off and the plot is thwarted.

Released under Academy Entertainment's Acorn Video brand, the dub is actually better than average. Well shot, well acted, and with some surreal imagery, “Girls Riot” tastefully attempts to create a social awareness of exactly what is happening to our youth, in the same vein as “Christiane F.” and “Over the Edge,” though it’s nowhere near as good. The bulk of the story focuses on character development. Some of the arcs may seem pointless, but they actually serve to advance the on-screen relationships quite seamlessly. Unfortunately, the film’s finale fizzles and ultimately overshadows what really is some very good character work. So far as teen drama goes, this is a pretty likable movie that doesn’t deserve a lot of the crap it gets.

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