I Declare War has an intriguing premise

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Starring Gage Munroe and Siam Yu. Unrated. Opens Friday, May 17, at the Vancity Theatre

This codirecting debut for Robert Wilson and writer Jason Lapeyre has an intriguing, if not novel, premise: 12-year-old boys getting too caught up in their weekend war games. The woodsy location and one-day time frame certainly helps in the budget department. The acting ranges from adequate to pretty good, with towheaded Gage Munroe up to the task as the game-obsessed P. K., the resident strategist.

Apparently, P. K. set the rules and has won all the games so far, so no big surprise that some kids are ready for him to be demoted. And it’s a reason for his main challenger (Aidan Gouvela) to get overthrown in his own ranks by the angry Skinner (Michael Friend), who has a personal beef with that leader. P. K. has a more reliable second in Kwon (Siam Yu), and this means something when Skinner captures Kwon and, along with racial epithets, subjects him to tortures that are not just symbolic.

Aside from tying up, cutting, punching, and viciously kicking each other, these kiddies unleash a constant stream of homophobic, misogynistic, and obscenity-laden invective at each other. If their behaviour is drawn from the adult world, that’s pretty obvious stuff. But by magically turning their play guns real and staging actual explosions, this poor man’s Lord of the Flies suggests the “warriors” have crossed some kind of incremental threshold we never really see.

That’s confusing, not to mention repetitious to the point of pure padding, but there’s no mistaking the hostility behind the use of a single, skimpily clad female. She’s played by Mackenzie Munro (the production’s other acting veteran) as a manipulative femme fatale—a self-centred fantasist using sexual charisma to turn the little shits against each other.

It’s one thing for children to promulgate dehumanizing stereotypes, and it’s quite another for filmmakers to do that and chalk it up to satirical “fun”.

Watch the trailer for I Declare War.
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