The Boys Next Door follows in the footsteps of Rebel Without A Cause in its exploration of a disillusioned youth that are raging against the system, but it cranks the violence and cynicism up to a level that endeavours to show the crumbling facade of the American Dream.
It has fallen into relative obscurity since its release, but is well worth watching for its examination of the escalation of violence displayed by a pair of teenagers, mirroring real life events such as the Starkweather murders and the Columbine massacre which would occur later. It’s also noteworthy for stellar performances from its two leads, Charlie Sheen and Maxwell Caulfield, who show the deterioration of both of their psyches, especially Caulfield’s character’s, as they go on a crime and then murder spree in Los Angelas after graduation.
Bo Richards (played by Charlie Sheen) and Roy Alston (played by Maxwell Caulfield) have little to look forward to after the completion of high school, except following in the footsteps of their fathers by working in the one of the town’s factories. Richards is somewhat of a petty criminal, a slacker who is too numb to pursue any meaning in his life. Alston is far more dangerous, with white hot rage bubbling below the surface which will lead to murder and mayhem as they set out on a cross country journey that will have a tragic end.
Penelop Spheeris directs with an intensity that ensures that the pacing of the film is breakneck, and she shows the mounting desperation and destruction of the characters as the story races to its inevitable conclusion. Her style in this film is comparable to Kathryn Bigelow’s in Point Break with its focus on the search for meaning in ones life, but how this quest often leads to the rupture of societal rules and the disruption of those surrounding the central characters. She coaxes very noteworthy performances from Sheen and Caulfield, with Sheen displaying an immaturity and vulnerability that is very believable of a boy from his background. Under her direction, Caulfield blossoms and shows why he would go onto be critically acclaimed onstage with an intensity that is quite spellbinding.
Writers for X Files, James Wong and Glen Morgan pen a script that is tight and thoughtful, hinting at the character focus that would be one of the cornerstones of the cult sci-fi series some years later. They create characters that feel very real, and make you question the workings of a system that disenfranchises its youth and provides them with little opportunity for self betterment or mental stability. Questions over whether or not America has any real control over its relationship with guns and gun violence are raised throughout the film. A pitiless and rather dystopian view of Los Angelas is presented, making one think of Neo noirs such as Blood Simple.
This is a film well worth your time, as it makes you think about how our society is structured and how quickly and easily that structure is disrupted when people are disillusioned and filled with rage about an uninspiring, dead end future.
This is my second and final contribution to The Cool Rider: Maxwell Caulfield Blogathon that I hosted. Please visit my blog to read the other entries dedicated to this fine actor.