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Dismissed Review

Dismissed is a 2017 thriller about an idealistic, straight-edge teacher who is drawn down a horrid rabbit hole by an honors student who’s willing to do anything for an A.

You can bet your bottom dollar that, in the movies, any new kid in school is sure to be the best thing going or the absolute worst. Pick an 80s coming-of-age teen comedy to a modern horror film and there’s any number of films centered on the transfer kid who changes everything. With Benjamin Arfmann‘s latest Dismissed, we add one more to the lot, a well-made and acted – if not mostly familiar – story that manages to take well worn tropes of the genre and spark a little life.

In English class at Morristown High School, Mr. David Butler (Kent Osborne) enthusiastically teaches literature to a room full of wholly disinterested students, yet he plugs along with a smile and support. One morning, in comes Lucas Ward (Dylan Sprouse), a student of particular zeal for the course, who shows surprising promise from assignment one, writing a university length dissertation on a simple homework paper. Lucas is aggressively academic with a penchant for perfection, joining the chess team and showing prowess there as well. Problem is, he doesn’t take anything less than one hundred percent success in all his efforts, and when that doesn’t quite work out, he takes extreme measures to change it. When David doesn’t give him an A, it triggers a fiery bout of revenge, where Lucas sets about to destroy the teacher from the inside out. 

For its short run time (86 minutes), Arfmann keeps things ticking along with a brisk pace, and it’s a wise choice as the familiarity of it all threatens to teeter this house of cards at any time. However, despite the been-there-done-that feel of it, the non-sexual twist at play really helps to keep Dismissed pretty compelling. It’s refreshing to have a story like this not involve obsession over lust or sexual misconduct but rather a mostly convincing story of a very disturbed young man with a severe psychopathic streak.

Using popular works of literature that help to draw out the more obvious themes, it’s a game of cat and mouse that escalates quickly, and in another interesting switch, does so with Lucas and David hardly ever being in the same room. Arfmann, in his feature film debut, and working off a script by Brian McAuley, builds terrific tension, coloring well into the corners two very well-defined characters. Both Osborne and Sprouse are very convincing, even if they carry on their shoulders decades of clichés the genre has set in stone. And that ultimately is what limits the film, a predictability that keeps the story on rails, right up to its jarring end.

Credit goes to Arfmann for avoiding the hystrionics so many of these movies devolve into, keeping this about the words rather than the action. It makes this a smarter movie than it should be, even as it steps a little over the line in the closing moments, skidding a bit off the tracks that otherwise kept it feeling authentic. Still, Dismissed is a solid effort, well worth a look, and proof enough that Arfmann is one to keep an eye on.

Dismissed Review

Movie description: Dismissed is a 2017 thriller about an idealistic, straight-edge teacher who is drawn down a horrid rabbit hole by an honors student who's willing to do anything for an A.

Director(s): Benjamin Arfmann

Actor(s): Dylan Sprouse, Randall Park, Chris Bauer

Genre: Thriller

  • Our Score
User Rating 4 (1 vote)
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