A satirical spin through America’s oft-reported fascination with celebrities, no matter how empty or facile, S.F.W. tries hard to juice up a subject that feels done to death.
When suburban teen buddies Cliff Spab (Stephen Dorff) and Joe Dice (Jack Noseworthy) zip into their local convenience store for a couple of brewskis, their typical night out on the ‘burb is turned upside down. Waiting inside is a group of video camera-wielding terrorists who hold the two boys and three other customers hostage.
The gang demands that TV networks broadcast the tapes they’re creating, but the lack of a political or financial explanation for their actions is only one of several key weaknesses of this caricature-laden adaptation of Andrew Wellman’s novel.
Pic instead focuses on the after-effects of what turns into a 36-day ordeal that claims the lives of all the hostages except Spab and winsome uppercrust teen Wendy Pfister (Reese Witherspoon).
While director Jefery Levy, whose previous pix were Drive and Inside Monkey Zetterland, clearly sympathizes with his protagonist’s ennui and confusion, S.F.W. fails to develop flesh-and-blood characters, and instead trades on tired filmic tricks that stack the deck at every turn.