Hey, I know: it’s time for a movie about a psychotic murderous high-school student who ruins the lives of everyone around him in a burst of explosive rage!
Dismissed is an indie film whose biggest notable point is that it’s apparently the de facto demo reel for Dylan Sprouse’s post-The Suite Life career. Sprouse—who is the identical twin of Riverdale’s Cole Sprouse—plays Lucas Ward, a psychopathic teenager who decides to give his teacher hell after receiving a B+ from him instead of an A.
This is very much “TV Movie Of The Week ” territory, often painted in big dramatic strokes. We really don’t get to see a lot of Ward as a non-psycho—even in the beginning of the movie when he introduces himself to his teacher and classmates and puts on a sheen of smarmy benevolence, that barely-concealed evilness is pretty obvious.
But while there’s not a lot of build-up to Ward’s villainy, to Sprouse’s credit he maintains it with a laser-like consistent focus during the entire film. While it feels at times over-the-top, it also comes off as genuine—specifically, illustrating the villainy of a calculating psychopath, as opposed to a bully or other troubled young person. Ward lacks any empathy or remorse—a point driven home by creepy “home videos” of him as a small child mimicking different human emotions.
In this sense, this is not quite a “killer student” in the way the Parkland high-school shooter was; while Nikolas Cruz seemed to be somewhat chaotic, the Ward character is extremely in-control with a facade of maturity and restraint.
Still…this is a slightly unsettling film to watch after the Parkland tragedy. Ward never uses guns per se, but he is clearly a danger to his classmates and teacher, a ticking time-bomb; a danger his alcoholic father, and presumably the staff of his other schools, have never addressed.
Probably the best scene outside of the Sprouse stuff is when the harassed teacher, Mr. Butler, talks to Paul Garrett, one of Ward’s former teachers. The actor who plays Garrett, Robert Longstreet, really “sells” in this intense monologue what exactly is so terrifying about Lucas Ward —including an anecdote about the teenager handing in a school paper in which he defends the Nazis.
The resolution to Dismissed is kind of fast, a bit messy & improbable, and doesn’t quite fully satisfy. Maybe it wasn’t meant to. As I wrote at the beginning of this review, this is really Sprouse’s show; he did such a great job here that I think the biggest drawback for him might be being typecast as a similar character in bigger budgeted flicks. But there’s worse things, I guess.
If you’re looking for a quick, super-emo thriller along the lines of the more sinister TV movies you grew up with, check out Dismissed. Currently on Netflix.