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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