I know this guy, always smiling, always full of life, who, for a short time, worked as a kidnapper. That's right, a kidnapper. Not in the way you may think, it was completely legal. He was involved with this teen rehabilitation center, the sort of place kids are sent when their parents have given up, where they are broken down and rebuilt. The thing is how they get there. Men will show up in the middle of the night, roust you from bed, slap handcuffs on you, and drag you outside where you are transported to wherever the facility is. It is crazy work, so I've been told. I have toyed with the notion that he was putting me on, and I still think that is a possibility, but the fact remains these places do exist, for better or worse. Personally, I cannot believe it, but the facts are out there. This is what Boot Camp is about.
Boot Camp is not unique, but it is pretty well made. I am reminded of a film I saw back in 2007, Driftwood. That 2006 production from Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs) covered similar ground. It was set in an "attitude adjustment" camp and centered on a young man who went down the wrong path following the death of his older brother. The biggest problem is that it took a supernatural bent, with the man being haunted by someone who died in said camp.
When I step back and look at the two films, I would have to say that Boot Camp is the more successful of the two. That is not to say either one is a good film, they both have their issues, but I am sure you are not here for a comparison. You are probably here for my thoughts on Boot Camp, no?
Boot Camp begins by showing us one of those kidnappings. A young man is handcuffed and taken away as his parents watch. When then shift over to Sophie (Mila Kunis), a troubled 17-year-old girl with some definite issues with her stepfather. It turns out the feelings are mutual, as he and her reluctant mother sign her up for the ASAP (Advanced Serenity Achievement Program) program. Men show up, zip tie her hands and take her off, along with a few other recruits, to a remote island.
On this island they meet Dr. Hail (Peter Stormare). This is the man who prides himself on his program of working hard on the upkeep of the facilities and a series of interventions given by others in the camp. Everything is aimed at breaking you down before rebuilding you as a more productive and responsible person.
Sure, that sounds good, but the methods are brutal. Death row inmates have more rights. This story takes us inside the camp. We are brought face to face with the "tough love" methods, and a few not so approved methods. We see beatings, starvation, isolation, and events that escalate to sexual assault.
The movie is not all that bad, but it is not particularly good. It is the sort of movie you cannot really watch for "entertainment" as it is just too bleak, but it is not polished enough to pass as a powerful message movie. It is just sort of there — it wants to make a statement, but it is not quite fleshed out enough.
It is strange, even though we have a clear-cut main character to get behind, the story never really takes hold as to why we should care. We are left to our own devices knowing that we are supposed to care; we just have to fill in the supporting material to pull it all together.
With that said, it is tightly paced and is always moving forward. Director Christian Duguay (Screamers, Extreme Ops) gives the movie a gritty realism and does his best to give the dark movie an interesting look. The script by Agatha Dominik and John Cox is nothing special, and riddled with dialogue that does not always feel real; still, it does the job.
The acting is decent enough, although none of the performers give truly standout performances. Mila Kunis did this project following the end of That 70's Show and prior to Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Boot Camp was finished back in 2007). She is all right, although not always convincing. I think her work here is most notable for being so very different from Jackie, the annoying rich girl she played for a number of years. Peter Stormare is the other recognizable cast member, and while he really does not do much here, he is always good to see.
Audio/Video. The disk I have for review is a screener and not a production version. I suspect this is identical to the production version you will find on shelves, but you should factor this in.
The video is decent. This is a low budget affair and you can tell. They did do a good job on the transfer — the detail is there, even in the dark scenes. The main issue is that everything is drenched in muddy browns, I guess to accentuate the grittiness of the situation, making it a little ugly to watch. Still, no problems at all with the transfer. The same can be said for the audio. It is a Dolby digital 5.1 track. It is not the liveliest I have heard, but this is not an effects driven extravaganza. Dialogue is clear, if a little low on the volume side of the scale. It is a serviceable track that does its job without distinguishing itself.
Extras. Nothing. There is a trailer on the disk, but it is for Dragonball: Evolution.
Bottom line. This is worth checking out for the curious. It is mostly well made and tells a story that is at least partially interesting. I just do not see it as the kind of movie I will often revisit.