By Merle Bertrand | November 29, 1999

Behind every self-respecting juvenile delinquent lie enabling parents and Tim (Desmond Devenish) has a couple of doozies. You see, his mom checked out a while back after swallowing a few dozen too many sleeping pills; no doubt driven to distraction by Ben (Jeff Paul), her racist, homophobic, abusive, alcoholic policeman husband. It’s not surprising, then, that this has left Tim with a few issues; an excessive fondness for women’s’ lingerie for one thing, exacerbated by a penchant for voyeurism, an unrequited crush on his sexy high school English teacher and an obsession, based solely on a photograph and a stolen videotape, with Tracy (Shawn Batten), the cute wealthy neighbor girl who’s off to boarding school. When Ben catches his son reading a book by Virginia Woolf, which Tim “borrowed” from Tracy’s bedroom, the enraged cop yanks it from his son’s hands and tears pages from the book in a moronic attempt to get Tim to “respect” him. Finally pushed to the breaking point after years of whippings and the death of his mother, Tim swipes a gun from Tracy’s house and puts in motion a scheme to rid himself of dear old dad once and for all. When Tracy, unbeknownst to Tim, returns home from school early with some dire problems of her own, it puts a tragic crimp in Tim’s plans. Left to his own devices, Tim, excellently portrayed by Devenish, would probably be an okay kid in spite of his quirks, which is why you find yourself somewhat disconcertingly holding your breath as he huddles in the shadows with his gun, waiting to off his monstrous father.
“Delinquent” is a fine independent film; disturbing and depressing, yes, but gripping, intelligent and very solidly put together. It stubbornly, bravely, almost spitefully refuses to succumb to the temptation to toss in a happy ending. Does this pervasive aura of gloom and oncoming tragedy make Peter Hall’s film difficult to watch? Sure. But I guarantee it’ll stick with you, especially in this post-Columbine era of heightened misfit awareness.

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