Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2008 by Peter Sciretta
Assassination of a High School President is a murder mystery set in a high school, without the murder. Assassination of a High School President will likely be compared to Brick in every review you read, and every conversation you have about te flick. Yet, Assassination is not a copy of Brick, in fact, it was written before Brick. Imagine if John Hughes had made Chinatown set in a High School. So where Brick was a hardcore film noir story set in the world of high school students, Assassination is a high school movie with a noir mystery storyline.
Brett Simon’s debut feature is set in an intricate, hilarious, twisted world set inside St. Donovan’s private school. Not quite the 90’s, 80’s or 70’s, Assassination is set in an alternative universe where cellphones don’t exist, students type on Apple IIe’s, yet references to the Iraq war and Chuck Palahniuk. Reece Daniel Thompson is Bobby Funke, a sophomore reporter for the St. Donovan’s school newspaper. When the SAT tests go missing from the High School Principal’s safe, Funke goes all Woodward and Bernstein, tracking his own private watergate, following the mystery twist after twist. Assassination‘s lightning quick dialogue is nothing short of brilliant. Even Mischa Barton couldn’t ruin this movie, as much as she tried with her O.C.-level acting skills (wait, should the wording still be “skills” when I’m obviously being derogatory?)
The world of this story is so masterfully created. From the production design, to the characters, Assassination feels like a living breathing parallel universe where the characters talk in voice over. While each character has a very specific story purpose, you feel like each character has an extensive back-history, comparable to the characters in the universe of The Simpsons or Groundhog Day. Bruce Willis turn as the crazy High School principal is also worth noting.
If there is one fault, and it is a minor one, it involves the film’s conclusion. Like most mystery stories, the resulting explanation at the end of the story never lives up to the intense build-up. Assassination is no different in that respect. But don’t get me wrong, you will not for a second feel cheated. You will leave the theater after seeing this film knowing you underpaid for your ticket.
Brett Simon has traveled the festival circuit with his short films, including Sundance, where his short film The Sailor’s Girl premiered in 2005. He’s a successful commercial and music video director (which includes the award winning “Somebody Told Me” for The Killers). Unrelated but noteworthy, Screenwriters Tim Calpin and Kevin Jakubowski are former production assistants on South Park.
Assassination is one of the most interesting films I’ve seen in the last couple years.
/Film Rating: 9 out of 10