The opening flash-forward of Girls Against Boys tells you everything you think you need to know: the striking, stick-thin redhead Lu is seducing a police officer in an hotel bedroom, and once he’s handcuffed and blindfolded, she cocks his gun and suddenly his mood deflates dramatically.
But this pre-title sequence is as much of a deception as the one practised in Lu’s entrapment, for Girls Against Boys is less concerned with the graphic nature of its premise than it is by the emotional consequences. There’s sexual violence and violent death aplenty, but mostly performed off-screen or in medium and long-shot; or in the case of the rape that precipitates the killing spree that is the film’s selling point, out of focus on the very edge of the frame.
Shae (Danielle Panabaker) is having a bad day. Forgoing a party with friends in order to spend the weekend in the Hamptons, with the older boyfriend she then discovers is leaving her to go back to his wife, Shae returns to the bar where she works, hooking up with Lu (Nicole LaLiberte), a co-worker who it is immediately apparent is a halfpenny short of a shilling. After an entire night of carousing in the company of three lads they meet at the club, Shae eventually arrives home as day is breaking and in spite of spurning his advances, is sexually assaulted by Simon (Michael Stahl-David). The second half of the film is concerned with the aftermath and Shae’s revenge.
Despite sharing a general premise with other such films as Baise Moi and I Spit on Your Grave, the direction Austin Chick’s film takes couldn’t be more different. Eschewing explanations in favour of moral ambiguity (there can’t be more than thirty pages of dialogue in the entire screenplay), it is up to the viewer to decode the meaning and import in the clues that follow. And while Lu is the one who takes the initiative, Shae is entirely complicit to her conduct, and her reaction to the first death is telling. There is in the final act a comeuppance for one of the two girls, but for the other it appears the cycle will begin again, an avenue for redemption and a potential happy ending having just been closed down.
Fluidly directed with crisp camerawork and icy cool performances over a shimmering electronic soundtrack, Girls Against Boys is visually sharp but psychologically indistinct, and clearly has ambitions towards a deeper philosophical import. Yet although the film borders on being a cautionary tale about the dangers of taking empowerment too far, the conclusion it arrives at is considerably more equivocal. As a result, Girls Against Boys is an enigmatic and not entirely fulfilling experience.
Special Features: Making of
INFO REVIEW: GIRLS AGAINST BOYS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: AUSTIN CHICK / SCREENPLAY: AUSTIN CHICK / STARRING: DANIELLE PANABAKER, NICOLE LALIBERTE, ANDREW HOWARD / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 15TH