The Dirties, film review: Top marks for Matt Johnson's brutal school portrait

(15) Dir. Matt Johnson; Starring Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, 83mins
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The Independent Culture

In his debut feature, the 26-year-old Matt Johnson plays Matt, a nerdy high-school film geek directing an outlandish amateur action-comedy about two nerdy high- school students who shoot all their school's bullies.

And, to begin with, The Dirties is a very funny meta comedy; manna for film geeks, but full of a high-spirited and punkish energy that anyone from fans of Jackass and Ali G to fans of Spike Jonze and Harmony Korine can appreciate. Johnson went undercover in a real Toronto high school and a lot of The Dirties was improvised and filmed on hidden cameras, guerrilla style.

But somewhere around the halfway mark, Matt begins having trouble distinguishing the idea for his film from the idea of shooting all of his school's bullies for real.

Johnson's film gets confusing and darkens, and reveals itself, not just as a knockabout comedy, but as a serious, thoughtful and all too plausible study of the psychological state in which a young, movie- and self-obsessed North American male might decide to take a gun to his school and start shooting.