The socially conscious teen drama “Detention” shows some considerable filmmaking skills in young first-time writer-helmer Darryl LeMont Wharton. Script is a tad too concerned with dramatizing every imaginable inner-city problem, but pic features a rewarding variety of characters and some raw moments of emotion that make it a worthy addition to the genre. That said, cracking the commercial marketplace will be difficult because of shabby production values and the fickle public for similarly themed films.
Focus is on a group of black high school students that gathers after school one afternoon for detention. The kids have myriad difficulties: involvement in the drug trade, sexual promiscuity, abusive parents, pregnancy; there’s even an athlete who dreams of making it to the NBA and is trying to keep his homosexuality a secret.
Righteous, been-around-the-block teacher Mrs. Deakins (Charisse Brown) is supervising the teens, and uses the detention to urge them to open up about their problems and find a way to communicate with one another. Each one reaches a certain emotional boiling point in the course of the drama, resulting in plenty of confrontations and tears.
Wharton, a Baltimore native who has written for TV’s “Homicide,” has a knack for creating intense moods, with characters on the brink of a emotional blowups; numerous individual scenes here have a potent, aggressive flair.
Unfortunately, the lead Mrs. Deakins role has been handed loads of heavy social and psychological commentary, resulting in a prevailing sense of didacticism.
Led by Brown, the unknown ensemble cast is uniformly solid and believable. Pic is visually sloppy, though, and another session in the editing room wouldn’t hurt. Soundtrack is full of manipulative ballads that are completely out of synch with the mood of the piece and should be replaced ASAP.