Danielle Panabaker saves rape-revenge flick, ‘Girls Against Boys’

Nicole LaLiberte (left) and Danielle Panabaker are out for revenge in 'Girls Against Boys'
Nicole LaLiberte (left) and Danielle Panabaker are out for revenge in ‘Girls Against Boys’

The rape-revenge subgenre probably doesn’t have a hope of ever surpassing its very first instance, Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. But it has been taken to some interesting places over the years, with everyone from Brigitte Nielsen to Sally Field starring in entries.

Girls Against Boys could have been a notable example, but makes the mistake of radically changing gears way too late in the game.

Shae Marshall (Danielle Panabaker) is a college student who gets dumped by her middle-aged boyfriend Terry (Andrew Howard), who would rather try to work things out with his wife and daughter. For some reason, she works at night as a bartender. She soon meets co-worker Lu (Nicole LaLiberte) who takes her out to a club to get her mind off her troubles.

There they meet Eric (Carmine DiBenedetto), Duncan (Will Brill), and Simon (Michael Stahl-David), and then all go back to Eric and Duncan’s place. When Shae wants to head back to her apartment, Simon goes with her. But at parting when it’s clear that she’s not into him, he charges into the building after her and you know the rest.

She tries going to Terry for support but is too shell-shocked to explain what happened – and he nearly comes close to forcing himself on her as well. Next she and Lu try reporting it to the police, but the latter uses the opportunity to seduce one of the officers (Matthew Rauch), steal his gun, and kill him. She convinces Shae that they need to handle this themselves, and head back to Eric and Duncan’s to find Simon’s whereabouts.

Danielle Panabaker is the one really good thing in 'Girls Against Boys'
Danielle Panabaker is the one really good thing in ‘Girls Against Boys’

But in the last third, the movie suddenly decides it wants to be Single White Female. Yep, apparently it forgot its own title.

The Wikipedia page for the rape-revenge sub genre lays out this three act structure:

  • Act I: A woman is raped/gang raped, tortured, and left for dead.
  • Act II: The woman survives and rehabilitates herself.
  • Act III: The woman takes revenge and kills her rapist(s)

Act I happens on schedule (though hardly brutalized enough to be presumed dead), but II and III get rushed together in the second third. It’s almost as though it was meant to be an hour long with the last 30 minutes there just to fill time, and there’s no one left to pit the girls against except each other.

And because it’s so rushed, the aspects of the revenge are poorly constructed. When Shae speaks with the cops, it’s made as though she doesn’t know anything helpful beyond his first name and can’t be helped. But she knows where Eric and Duncan live, and that should be more than enough for the police to go on. She also most probably knows what club they met at, also something the police can follow up on.

Now it’s one thing if she’s deliberately withholding this information because she’s already made up her mind to strike back on her own, but that is not the case here. These things just don’t come up, and she doesn’t even entertain the idea of revenge until a conversation with Lu later on.

But Panabaker is excellent. It’s really a shame that her starring roles lately have been in works with so much squandered potential and low aspirations (see also Piranha 3DD). A weaker actress in the part would’ve dropped this to a 1 no question, but she keeps it (relatively) afloat. Even when everything derails at the end she manages to be an engaging presence.

The rape-revenge films seem to receive some support from feminists, but I think even they would be hard-pressed to be in favor of this one. But Girls Against Boys isn’t really so much against boys or girls or anyone, as much as it is against itself.

Leave a Reply