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johns Movie Review

tricks donner silver scott

A few minutes into johns I deduced that a particular character was not going to make it out of the movie alive and I was wrong: johns deliberately keeps us off balance in a way that adds to our fascination with its sad story. It's about kids who turn tricks by hanging out on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, with the emphasis on John (David Arquette) and Donner (Lukas Haas). John wakes up on Christmas Eve to harsh reality: all his cash has been stolen as well as the lucky sneakers in which he hid his money. His plans to spend Christmas (and his birthday) in an expensive hotel are finito; he'll have to spend the day turning tricks instead. His best friend Donner wants John to leave the Boulevard and travel to the Midwest with him where they can work as lifeguards at Camelot Theme Park. John, who hates the water, is none too thrilled with the idea, but as the day drags on, it grows on him. There are two wistful sequences at the expensive hotel where John pretends to be a filmmaker and the gracious desk clerk is human enough not to challenge the pretense. There's also John's goofy visit with a family man (played with relish by Elliott Gould) who only wants love while John only wants a loan. Meanwhile, Donner seems to only attract tricks who want to hit him, and when he's done, he talks about tricks who want to hit him. (One of Donner's fellow Johns on the street is Wilson Cruz as Mikey. He's been so good in a such a variety of smallish roles, I keep hoping he'll get a part into which he can really sink his teeth.) After sunset, depression sets in, the tricks get stranger, and the vulnerable Johns are victimized by tricks who hate the fact that they need a john at all. It's at night when johns is saddest, and fledgling writer/director Scott Silver shows us why in a clear, restrained way. Arquette and Haas dive into the roles of John and Donner as if their lives depended on the decisions their desperate characters have to make, and Arliss Howard as a character named Cardoza delivers his specialty: another carefully textured performance. johns is a fine first effort for Silver, who achieves a great deal on this sharply focused, modestly budgeted film.

1996 (R) 96m/C David Arquette, Lukas Haas, Arliss Howard, Keith David, Elliott Gould, Christopher Gartin, Joshua Schaefer, Wilson Cruz, Terrence DaShon Howard, Nicky Katt, Alanna Ubach; D: Scott Silver; W: Scott Silver; C: Tom Richmond; M: Charles D. Brown. VHS

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