Directed by Jim Hemphill
Written by Jim Hemphill
Music by Eric Choronzy and John LeBec
Cinematography by Forrest Allison
2005/90 minutes/Color/Dolby Digital Stereo
1.77:1/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Maverick Entertainment DVD
For a first-time writer and director, Jim Hemphill has a firm understanding of what makes a compelling, horrific story. While many a novice auteur focuses on the visual and stylistic realm of filmmaking, Hemphill seems to pay attention to creating realistic characters through smart dialogue and situations in the story that make sense within the context of the narrative.
Hemphill’s Bad Reputation distinguishes itself from other rape and revenge stories in two distinct ways. First, the aforementioned writing is stellar in comparison to similar movies, and secondly, the movie manages to conquer its obvious budgetary constraints because of the outstanding performances, the clever script, and the sure-footed direction.
Shot on a shoestring budget, Bad Reputation follows the story of Michelle Rosen, played wonderfully by Angelique Hennessy, who is an introverted bookworm living with her overworked and apathetic mom. Michelle is the quiet type who sits alone under the tree during lunch reading a book. So when she is approached by the school’s quarterback, Aaron (Jared Anderson) and asked to a party she is immediately suspicious. But, Michelle also longs to fit in and wants to experience the social side of high school so she shows up at the party and becomes friendly with Aaron.
Of course, Aaron’s agenda is completely different than Michelle’s, and what follows at the party is a brutal sexual assault and public humiliation that leaves Michelle battered both physically and emotionally. After the party, Michelle is known as the school slut and has to deal with constant persecution throughout the school day. But soon, Michelle discovers that her new reputation may be just the tool she needs to get revenge on the people who abused her.
Hemphill captures the awkward and often violent nature of teen sexuality perfectly. The dialogue is frank, and it mostly rings true. The conversations between the characters never seem scripted, and instead feel like things real teenagers might say in similar situations. Hemphill also does a nice job steering clear of campiness. For the most part, Bad Reputation plays it straight, and while there are scenes that do not work quite as well (including the somewhat anti-climactic finale), the overall story moves along well.
While the plot is definitely familiar, Angelique Hennessy does such a great job of establishing Michelle as a character that it is hard for the viewer not to become engaged in her quest for revenge. Hennessy nails the awkward longing of so many teenage girls, and when she turns into the seductive siren, there is a level of raw sexuality in her performance that makes her character even more interesting. Hennessy is perfect for the role as she looks like an “everyday” girl rather than a dolled-up movie star playing a role. In fact, Michelle’s “average” quality both physically, and as a character, is what lends the movie its believability and sexual undercurrent.
Nothing about Bad Reputation resembles a studio movie, so viewers expecting a glossy version of female revenge movies should know going in that Jim Hemphill has crafted a funky, biting, sometimes brutal, and intriguing micro-budget take on the sub-genre. The pitfalls of low budget movies are all here, including some annoyingly bad edits, wooden performances from some of the supporting cast, hard to hear audio, and woefully lit night scenes, but the good outweighs the bad which makes Bad Reputation not only watchable, but enjoyable.
Bad Reputation seduces its way onto DVD from Maverick Entertainment with an acceptable 1:77:1 image, and a decent Dolby Digital Stereo soundtrack. Most of the problems with the image and sound appear to come from the movie itself rather than the transfer. Still, there are some grainy scenes, and as mentioned before, the darks can be consuming.
Sadly, Maverick missed an opportunity to explore Hemphill’s project further with special features. A commentary track, behind the scenes footage, or a making-of documentary would have made this disc even better. Inevitably low-budget independent movies are fertile ground for compelling special features, but all that is presented here are trailers for other Maverick titles including, Tweek City, The Brink, The Champagne Gang, and Cult along with Spanish subtitles. Consider this lack of features an opportunity missed.
This Film Features:
Review by Jamie Smith. All Right Reserved. 2007. ©