Movie Review: Bullies are warned of “Consquences,” but will they ever see them in this Slovenian drama?

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The words come out in different sentences, but bullies never hear them.

“There will be consequences,” ineffectual authority always says. But when that warning isn’t backed up with action — meeting violence with the full force of the law, or on a more jungle law level, meeting violence with violence — threats have no meaning.

“Consequences” is a Slovenian/French co-production about the pecking order in Ljubljana’s version of reform school. It follows a familiar path and hits many an easily anticipated way-point along that path. Writer-director Darko Stante drops obvious foreshadowing hints in our path, and rarely trips us up with misdirection or twists.

It’s still a grimly if modestly harrowing tale of wayward youth coming of age.

We meet Andrej (Matej Zemljic ), a lean and mean teen at a party, making out with a girl who taunts him when he “doesn’t feel like” having sex with her. We don’t see it, but it’s pretty obvious that he punches her.

Add that to the fact that he steals, rejects authority from his long-suffering mother (Rosana Hribar) and ineffectual pushover father (Dejan Spasic), on up the social ladder, and that this smirking, spoiled punk seems like a lost cause.

“I can’t worry about him anymore,” (in Slovenian, with English subtitles) his mom tells the judge. To “The Centre,” says the judge, even though she hasn’t seen Andrej bully and threaten his parents. This will straighten him out and teach him a lesson.

The fact that he has a pet white rat tells us he has a sensitive side. But all his behavior makes us fear for the rodent and anybody else within his reach. He’s out of control.

We don’t fear for Andrej, even though he’s leaner than the meanest dogs in The Yard. But standing up to Niko (Gasper Markun)  and taking his medicine from the psychotic top dog, Zele (Timon Sturbej) means he won’t have to follow roomie Luka’s go-along-to-get along survival strategy.

“Smoke weed…mind your own business.”

Andrej is “in” with the tough guys.

That might seem like the safest place to be. We and Andrej have seen counselors and teachers alike break up fights, non-violently, but spinelessly.

“There will be consequences.”

Their biggest threat? Taking away these sociopathic thugs’ weekend release. It’s a step rarely taken. The teachers are scared of them, too. The weak are pitilessly beaten, humiliated and robbed.

Stay on the good side of the psychotics is a survival strategy worth considering.

What we’re watching is a young man with just a hint of humanity wrestle with smothering that humanity, all for the sake of the approval of a monster-in-the-making.

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Stante sketches in the reformatory in very brief scenes which capture both the nature of the place — teens are taught welding — and the characters inhabiting it. The strongest have learned that they need never control a violent impulse, even those involving open flames and tools.

Quick scenes establish psychotic Zele’s weekend routine — shakedowns, car thefts, beatings, drugs, partying. Andrej is cruel enough to cut the mustard, and soon finds himself charged with taking on tough-guy duties, “collecting” as we say in mob movies in the states.

The “surprises” here either aren’t that surprising, or seem too-abruptly introduced to give this routine teens-in-stir story its standard formula twist. The visual cues are blatant, the payoff fairly commonplace in such movies, if not in Eastern European ones.

On the plus side, the young leads are convincing, if more repellent than compelling. And the story takes on the air of inevitability far earlier than any truly inventive twist on the genre would allow.

The “Consequences” here are a movie that’s more intriguing than arresting, and not harrowing enough to be the most convincing recreation of the real thing.

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MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, substance abuse-drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sexual situations, profanity

Cast: Matej Zemljic, Timon Sturbej, Gasper Markun

Credits: Written and directed by Darko Stante. An Uncork’d Entertainment Release.

Running time: 1:35

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