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The Chocolate War Movie Review

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The Chocolate War gets off to an irritating start. Writer/director Keith Gordon crams its first few minutes with stylistic flourishes that serve to confuse rather than intrigue, especially since this flashy approach is soon abandoned in favor of a straightforward narrative. Then it wrings more dramatic mileage out of the annual school candy sale than you would ever have thought possible. We are introduced to Brother Leon, a nutcase if ever there was one, who has his eyes on the headmastership of St. Trinity School for Boys. We also meet the conscienceless Archie, who leads the school's secret society, the Vigils. And then there is Jerry, who initially seeks their acceptance but winds up disillusioned and dispirited by what he learns about both. Former actor Keith Gordon has assembled rather an offbeat cast: the great John Glover is over the top as always as weird Brother Leon, Ilan Mitchell-Smith seems a bit vague as Jerry, but Wally Ward is right on target as the sociopathic Archie. Adam Baldwin is still in high school eight years after My Bodyguard, and the film's only comic relief is furnished by the reliable Bud Cort as Brother Jacques. Based on Robert Cormier's novel, The Chocolate War has nothing good to say about self-serving systems or about those who protect them; the film deserves credit for exploring some universal truths in the worthiest of settings, an all-male Catholic school.

1988 (R) 95m/C John Glover, Jenny Wright, Wally Ward, Bud Cort, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Adam Baldwin; D: Keith Gordon; W: Keith Gordon. VHS, LV, Closed Caption

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