#164: Detachment (2012)

By show of hands, who thought King Kong was a painful movie?

Although it’s a money making machine, America’s film industry is filled with bonafide oddballs. Billy Wilder – bit of a nut job. The late great Dennis Hopper – a great loon. If you let them in, they pop up all over the place. But then there’s the counter-culture eccentrics who rival against the studios and fall into obscurity. A perfect example here is the London born Tony Kaye. With over fifteen years working in the celluloid grind, he has remarkably only released one feature film for distribution, 1998’s provocative American History X. A film with a final cut that wasn’t even approved by Mr Kaye in the first place.

In rolls Kaye’s second film warranting our attention. Detachment is a star-studded critique on the American education system, parenting, prostitution and anyone else that happens to stumble into Kaye’s ramshackle filming style. Adrien Brody (who is really working his ass off here) plays substitute teacher Henry Barthes. Travelling from place to place, his latest venture is with a particularly problematic school. With petulant teenagers dishing out torrents of abuse on their teachers on an hourly basis, Barthes tries to glimpse through the light in all this darkness and do the thing that he does best – teach.

With an impressive, if underused ensemble cast including James Caan, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu and Bryan Cranston, it’s clear that Tony Kaye has a name formidable enough to wet the appetite of actors wanting to take up more harsh and unconventional roles. But, for all his notoriety, Detachment is a Tony Kaye talkie that just doesn’t equate to the sum of its parts. Politically charged, it feels more like a bag of ideas than one conclusive work, meandering around implosive ideas without ever really hitting the high-water mark of American History X and his powerful 2006 abortion debate documentary Lake of Fire.

That there’s a mini review, now listen to me spurt some vocalised words:

IMDb it.

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