Thumper is a 2017 crime-thriller about teens in a low income neighborhood who are lured into working for a violent and dangerous drug dealer.
Life in high school is pretty complicated. You’ve got studying and sports, cliques and gangs, raging hormones and of course, the drugs. Movies are stuffed with stories where kids in school face all kinds of impactful challenges with chemical abuse from all kinds of drugs, as if it’s a cemented part of the norm, from spaced-out comedies to the occasional jarring drama that comes far closer to the realities. Now comes Jordan Ross‘ Thumper, a film set in high school around a group of students who we learn are on all sides of the issue, in an unflinching examination that succeeds where many fail.
In a small, unnamed town, Kat (Eliza Taylor), with her pink-tinged hair and badass attitude, navigates high school as best she can, dealing with strungout friends like Gina (Jazzy De Lisser), before meeting a scrappy boy named Beaver (Daniel Webber) who takes an interest in her. Beaver’s a typical wanderer, unsure of his opportunities, trying to fit in with his older cousin who runs meth for local kingpin Wyatt (Pablo Schreiber), hoping he can get in on the action. Thing is, Kat isn’t who she seems, she an undercover cop, divorced and with a young son, handled by her superior Ellen (Lena Headey), trying to curb the crisis of abuse and overdose in the schools. Kat hopes to take down Wyatt, worming her way into Beaver’s life, but it’s a dangerous game, one that has more risks than she bargained for.
Perhaps most effective of what Ross accomplishes with Thumper is how deeply he commits to the humanity of it all. These are supremely well-defined characters that are far more than the one thing that defines them. Kat struggles to balance her career and homelife, which forces her to adopt an entirely new personality, while keeping whatever tenuous hold she has on her son as her ex-husband moves on. It says something of Taylor’s performance that in both these worlds, she so thoroughly convinces, easily blending into the dizzying world of high school drama and drugs while trying to be the good mother. She’s under extreme pressure from Ellen to help get the streets clean, but in doing so, she is steadily losing her son to his new family.
This puts her at risk, and she ends up taking a few as well, getting close to beaver as she pushes in on a notoriously unstable Wyatt. The thing is, Ross is very careful to layer these people in significant colors that paint them into highly identifiable roles. Wyatt looks the part, tattooed, thickly-muscled, and aggressive, yet he is motivated by his own two children, an absent wife, and his crippling need for medication from his years in military service, now out of his reach due to insurance changes. Beaver is in a broken home with an abusive father and mentally retarded younger brother, for whom all he wants to do is take him away. These peripherals are not simply details intended to be throwaways, but instead made to illustrate a much larger picture. It’s very effective.
It all builds to a frightening finale, one the defies the standards the genre seems to demand. Ross insists it remain grounded, and as such, is a jarring experience, one that succeeds greatly in pulling off a unique trick of keeping its plates spinning with terrific tension. Highly recommended.
Movie description: Thumper is a 2017 crime-thriller about teens in a low income neighborhood who are lured into working for a violent and dangerous drug dealer.
Director(s): Jordan Ross
Actor(s): Eliza Taylor, Pablo Schreiber, Lena Headey
Genre: Crime, Thriller