Movie Review: “Hellion”

ImageSomething about the label “Hellion” implies a sense of impish fun and
mischief. But 13 year-old Jacob Wilson (Josh Wiggins) sets fires, trashes
vehicles in the parking lot while his fellow Texans enjoy a high school football
game and has so much rage in him that he’s already a familiar figure to the
Jacob is the unlikely anti-hero of “Hellion,” a messed-up kid taking out his
hurt and resentment on most of those around him, especially his dad (Aaron Paul
of “Need for Speed” and “Breaking Bad”), Hollis.
Something bad happened in this family. Hollis, a carpenter, crawls into a
beer can, even on those weekends when he’s hammering away at the family’s dream
house, a vacation getaway in nearby Galveston that represents a last link to the
absent mother in this household of males.
Jacob’s run-ins with the law are not solo, but he’s got a code — “I don’t
rat out my crew.”
And lectures from Hollis don’t carry any weight — “Take responsibility,
Jacob.” Dad doesn’t seem to be very good at that, either.
The real tragedy here is ten-year-old Wes (Deke Garner), who idolizes Jacob
and wants to run with his self-destructive/property-destroying “crew.” Jacob is
young enough and delusional enough that he means it when he tells the kid
brother, “I swear I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“Hellion” is an accident waiting to happen, a tragedy unfolding. Latchkey
kids, hyped up on sugary sodas, junk food and speed metal, bored when dad takes
Jacob’s motorbike away, are headed for trouble.
Juliette Lewis is the kindly aunt — sister of their dead mom — who figures
in the story when Jacob’s many run-ins with the law bring the cops and child
welfare down on the family.
I like the way writer-director Kat Candler, expanding a short film she made a
few years back, doesn’t give away the whole back-story — what killed the
mother, who might have been to blame. I don’t like the film’s contrived,
melodramatic climax, or this whole story thread where hotshot motocross rider
Jacob figures he can solve all their problems by winning “the Big Race.”
But “Hellion” is involving, sobering and very well-acted, with nice turns by
young Wiggins and especially by Aaron Paul — playing a broken man who has just
enough of a grasp of what he’s supposed to be doing to realize the life-scarring
mistakes he’s making with these boys.
As coming-of-age melodramas go, “Hellion” offers a rare and engrossing
glimpse into a working class nightmare, a lifestyle of indulged biker-kids,
guns, violence and beer that is every bit the trap we consider our inner cities
to be.


MPAA Rating: unrated, with teen violence, smoking
Cast: Josh Wiggins, Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Deke Garner
Credits: Written and directed by Kat Candler. An IFC release.
Running time: 1:39

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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