The Skulls

Ooh, shady stuff! Luke (Jackson) starts to doubt his society soulmate Caleb (Walker)....
dir Rob Cohen scr John Pogue
with Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker, Hill Harper, Leslie Bibb, Christopher McDonald, Craig T Nelson, William Petersen, Steve Harris, David Ashman, Scott Gibson, Nigel Bennett, Andrew Kraulis
Universal 00/US 2 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Clandestine clubs make for intriguing conjecture, and there's probably a very good story buried deep within The Skulls. But this film abandons any promise it may have for a dull and predictable thriller plotline. I guess it wouldn't have been enough to just make an intelligent and gripping drama about Ivy League secret societies. No, we had to have a murder, coverup, good guys, bad guys, and so on.

Luke (Jackson) got into his posh New England university the hard way: he worked for it. An orphan from the wrong side of the tracks, he's in training to be a top lawyer and captains the victorious school rowing team. So it's hardly a surprise when he's invited to join the most powerful and exclusive society on campus, the Skulls. And while this solves his financial woes, it also creates problems with his best friend (Harper), a journalism student with a nose for conspiracy. And Luke's impending girlfriend (Bibb) is also troubled by his new friendship with shifty society guy Caleb Mandrake (Walker).

Up until this point the film is clever and interesting, the actors are likeable and very natural, the film slick and polished in an undemanding sort of way. Then suddenly it turns into a hack version of The Firm, with furtive glances, backstage doubledealing, sinister guys in black suits (including the badly underused Nelson, McDonald and Petersen), lots of running and panting, and of course Luke turning to his rough townie friends for help. It's pure dumbed-down hokum, sacrificing the superb cast and a strong premise for superficial entertainment. There are so many awful scenes and conversations, clunkily contrived story elements and irritating red herrings that when the Big Mystery is finally unravelled you don't care at all.

[15--adult themes, violence] 6.Sep.00
US release 31.Mar.00; UK release 3.Nov.00

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"The Skulls has a good story, but the script is really awful. The only thing that saves the movie is its acting: Joshua Jackson gives an amazing performance considering the boring character he's got to play and the stupid dialogue; Paul Walker is fine and Leslie Bibb's performance is surprisingly good." --Satine Christian, net 30.Jun.03
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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall