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The Skulls (2000)
Directed by Rob Cohen Written by John Pogue
Joshua Jackson was without a doubt the, go to guy for the cameos circa 2000’s for most popular “teen/college” thrillers. Though I’ll forever love and know him as Charlie Conway The Skulls however was able to finally show him in a lead role with an abundant cast of talent including co-stars Paul Walker and Leslie Bibb. Along with greatly experienced veteran’s Christopher McDonald, (Martin Lombard) William Petersen (Ames Levritt) and Craig T. Nelson (Litten Mandrake). What started as a bit of an obsession with secret societies and their ins and outs, writer Pogue first believed them to be a myth. Discovering his Senior year how there were certain groups that held a certain amount of power and maneuvered in a certain manner without outright having to flaunt necessarily.
Luke McNamara (Jackson) has had to work for everything in his life. His mother passed away when he was just a child and his dad wasn’t much help after. Plans of getting into Harvard Law and a 45,000 tuition pressuring him as the hopes of attaining a membership to the most secret society at his college would solve everything; the Skulls. His teammate and best friend Will (Hill Harper) had been there through ups and downs but would rather start the year by suggesting telling Chloe (Leslie Bibb) how he felt about her. The dichotomy of their “relationship” being, Chloe is far used to the college jocks and not interested in their means of satisfying women. Luke failing to realize that it was that very thing that drew her to him and that he didn’t have everything handed to him in a silver spoon. Making them seem like “the three best friends that anyone could have.” It seems that things begin to change once an invitation is presented to Luke with the promise of anything he could ask for in return for his loyalty. Given only a matter of seconds between each phone call, he’s given instructions which lead to a classroom where a pint with the Skulls symbol waited with a note that read, “Drink me.”
Awakening in a coffin along other candidates they are given their first test to be completed by sunrise; capture the Snakes and Skeleton’s societies python mascot. To complete their set. Having worked his way up from “a misspent youth,” he catches Caleb Mandrake’s attention (Walker) rather quickly once they combine their awesome-ness. Walker having no problem becoming Superman rather quickly to make that leap and with Jackson looming as he comes forward with the great coincidence of being a expect lock picker. Solidifying his “soul mate” (assigned to one another to look after and protect) with Mandrake who others had stated was, “a skull since the day he was born.” Entrusted with a key to their quarters, a book of rules, a watch (of which hid the brand for the society) and brand new cars, it seemed if it was one thing they were good at doing it was sweetening the deal. He bonds quickly with Senator Ames Levritt (Petersen) who had known what it felt like to work in one’s life. He feels an instant connection that eventually ends up saving Luke when most needed.
Brand names and expensive items surely know the right way to blind as Luke’s friendship with Chloe and Will falters though insists of it having nothing to do with the Skulls. Several attempts to catch up fall through when it seems someone had their own agenda; following Caleb to the gym and braking into his car. “If it’s secret and elite, it can’t be good.” Frantically upset, Caleb finds Luke and asks for his key to share a bit of worry in having “forgotten” his key. What once seemed like a bright side turned quickly into a harsh reality when he finds Will having hung himself in his dorm room. Questioned by Detective Sparrow, (Steve Harris) who seems a bit suspicious of Luke having had a fight with Will most recently and meeting at an absurd hour in the night. Taking Chloe into his arms, he seems at a loss for words until movers began removing Will’s belongings. In the midst they find files of which had information concerning the Skulls and Caleb’s information as Luke suspects his soul mate instantly. At their next meeting Luke volunteers the two for “Liars Hell” in which they were able to ask questions of any nature until satisfied. Beginning to stick his nose where not belonging, he’s warned by Caleb to mind his own business because the Skulls were always watching. Coming clean about the situation and explaining that it had only been an accident in which he had tried to get his things back. The chase simply ended will Will breaking his neck. Not to fear as daddy comes to the rescue, presenting Luke with the option of entrance to any medical school before having even applied. The offer having come from Litten Mandrake who was only trying to protect son Caleb from catching any heat of the incident.
Litten decides that Luke is to be removed from the group, suggesting him posing a threat in their cover-up. Going back to his roots and offering his past delinquent friends a brand new car if willing to help him obtain surveillance. Finding that while Caleb’s story did hold true, it had been his father who had committed the crime of having “finished the job” not actually dying after his fall. Stealing the tapes from that night and contending that the evidence in fact had been in his hands. Upon looking however find that everything had been erased. Situated into a psychiatric hospital (they don’t play around) he’s later rescued by Chloe with the help from the Senator who gives them a car and tells them to not look back. Chased down by Lombard (McDonald) whose intention of putting a bullet into Luke is met with a shot from Detective Sparrow, who had been working alongside the Senato. Left to think about their next move with the reminder that “we live by the rules, we die by the rules,” he averts to the rule book and finds a solution that could end up costing him his life. Making his way to the last phase of the new Skulls induction, challenging Caleb to an old-fashioned duel. His father trying to interfere but since their rules shall supersede, it seems that the two are left to duel with one last attempt from Luke to detail of what actually happened after he left that night.
Now, because it wasn’t an “adult” thriller/crime or action there were certain things that had to be overlooked. Those “rules” pertain to every type of genre yanno There was no way that some misspent youths would be able to get the one up on a powerful secret society. They even mention the fact that they were always watching and still they do not get caught. As well, the completely unneeded romance did get a bit in the way of enjoying the movie near the end. I mean, really? I wanted to gag during their argument when she blurts out her love for him and they embrace. The truth is, the way it ends alone would have been enough to imply that particular situation either way. Save that for the Rom/Coms please. The relationship between Petersen and Nelson’s character was fantastic! They had been soul mates so, naturally reflected our two leads. In a sense we’re shown what this society is capable of doing, even in your closet friendship. When Litten discovers the Senator’s intentions on assisting Luke, he’s forced to blackmail him, having obtained evidence in a 19-year-old lover that his wife and the media wouldn’t be too fond of hearing. The Senator then knew that he had to be stopped, perhaps for his own benefit as well. So he wasn’t just the good guy helping out Jackson’s character. He was in it for himself a little. Though the end exchange between him and Luke was a great way to end it regardless; basically tempts him by saying that they could go on to “rule” and ask how he be able to live with his doubts with Luke stating “watch me” and walking off into the sunset. No not really but more or less the effect they were going for. Not before Levritt is able to utter “Well done, son” and then it actually ends. Get it? He didn’t want him to be stuck in the lifestyle that only held the perception of being everything wanted. But hey, is that not called life in general in some aspects? Not too bad of a thriller and certainly worth a watch.