Picks and Pans Review: Class of 1984
The prologue to this film cites new statistics about violence in our schools. But Class of 1984, a mix of Blackboard Jungle, To Sir With Love and The Warriors, offers up a solution that is as old as Hammurabi: an eye for a bloody eye, a tooth for a knocked-out tooth, and a stiletto for a chain. Director Mark (Roller Boogie) Lester envisions high school as an armed camp, with metal detectors and surveillance cameras everywhere. At the student body's rotten core is Timothy (The White Shadow) Van Patten, the 22-year-old half brother of Dick and Joyce. He gives a marvelous performance as the strutting, black-hearted psychotic who rules Abraham Lincoln H.S. with a gang of punks. Perry King plays his challenger, a naive new teacher who battles callous administrators as well as the thugs. (Ironically, King gave a much better performance as a leathered delinquent in 1974's The Lords of Flatbush.) He remains committed to his profession until the gang brutally rapes his pregnant wife. That leads to a climax reminiscent of De Palma's Carrie, as the now feral King stalks his tormentors. His vigilante approach to education isn't very edifying; sweet Karen Valentine would have civilized the young misfits within three episodes of Room 222. The subtheme about the need for changes in the juvenile justice system seems a rationalization for brutality. But the film has great verve and plays deftly on the emotions. (R)
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