Drop the Gossip Girls into Sin City and you get Twelve, Joel Schumacher’s adaptation of a Nick McDonell novel about beautiful rich kids who get mixed up in the thug life. It even stars a Gossip Boy, Chace Crawford, whom the narrator (Kiefer Sutherland) tells us is White Mike: “White Mike is thin and pale like smoke. White Mike has never smoked a cigarette in his life,” nor has he ever touched alcohol or drugs. But White Mike is a “very good drug dealer,” though really just a pot dealer who doesn’t like handling the harder stuff or guns, because, you know, we can’t have a protagonist who’s a total scumbag, can we?
If you’re already sick of the name “White Mike,” just skip the film, because the narrator says it about a billion more times in an attempt to be Sin City-edgy. Other voiceover tidbits: “It’s all about want. What do you want? Because if you don’t want something, you got nothing,” and “Chris checks his long-unused condoms. In case he gets laid tonight. Pops his cherry. Fucks her brains out. Fucks her raw. Fucks her hard,” etc., etc. So what do you want—to punch the narrator in the face? Good, we’re on the same page.
Chris (Rory Culkin, playing one of the few sorta-sympathetic characters) is a pushover living in a parent-free Manhattan mansion who holds a lot of parties for people he pretends to like, “because he thinks he’s supposed to.” His shindigs, and Mike himself, bring Twelve’s tethers together: Mike has a cousin who’s into “twelve,” a new drug, whose addiction and bravado get him killed by another dealer, Lionel (50 Cent). Jessica (Emily Meade), a good girl who gets good grades, blindly tries twelve at one of Chris’ parties and ends up giggling and stumbling around a bathroom as she recites the Gettysburg Address; now girlfriend’s hooked. (You can tell because her makeup gets worse.)
All of these characters (and more!) bounce around from day to day, getting high or drunk or giving their parents grief, most often, it’s implied, because mom and dad are cold-hearted jerks to begin with. During one fourth-wall-break, some girls say as much, speaking “certain truths” directly to the camera such as “Chicks must come before dicks,” “The Hamptons rock,” and “Our parents suck.” Retch and repeat—none of these pretty people are believable as upper-class bottom-feeders, and even if they were, there’s nothing interesting about them anyway. They’re good-looking, secretly (and, worse, superficially) hurting, and like to get fucked up! Who cares.
Somehow, out of all this faux-chaotic excess, McDonell’s story is about “living the best life we can.” (The line is said by Mike’s mother, recently dead of cancer. OK, so there’s one tiny subplot worthy of sympathy.) Living the best life you can does not include wasting your time on Twelve.