I DECLARE WAR (Jason Lapeyre, Robert Wilson). 94 minutes. Opens Friday (May 10) at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See listings. Rating: NNN
Call it the Canuck answer to Battle Royale. In I Declare War, toy-gun-toting kids engage in a game of Capture The Flag, when suddenly their stick weapons morph into actual burning chrome and result in casualties - but only until suppertime.
What should be PG material shoots straight for R territory with slick, bloody effects, eardrum-ringing sound and the kind of cussing you'd hear on Xbox Live. This is deadpan humour that stretches out one good joke, where not so innocent kids pass the time between strategic kills discussing schoolyard politics - or maybe grabbing a juice. In the era of Call Of Duty, it's not all that shocking.
At the centre of the battle are PK Sullivan (Gage Munroe) and Skinner (Michael Friend), the ruthless opposing team leaders whose personal beef complicates matters. When Skinner introduces torture, it's hard to tell if these kids are actually safe in their imaginary world.
If there's a cautionary tale in this adventurous experiment, you'd hardly notice, because directors Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson are busy having fun with the concept.
The talented teen actors deserve praise for keeping us hooked, gamely switching from adorable to dead "fucking" serious every time they lock and load.
You'll want to see how the battle plays out, but you'll also hope these kids get grounded afterwards.