Piggybacking on the contemporary trend for charming dysfunctional suburban teenagers, The Chumscrubber is a mostly problematic film, its inciting moments almost as unconvincing as its leading characters. The film begins with the sad revelation of the premature suicide of drug dealer Troy, one which resonates particularly with his close friend Dean (Jamie Bell). Dean faces further adversity in the form of constant hectoring from the vindictive school bullies, led by Billy (Justin Chatwin), an impatient and callous customer of Troy’s. In order to get what he believe he is owed, Billy arranges a kidnapping of Dean’s younger brother Charlie (Rory Culkin) and demands a ransom of “feel-good pills”, Troy’s speciality. For a split second, Dean is successfully browbeaten... until he makes his way downstairs and finds Charlie safe and sound. Further developments in the next scene make it clear that Billy has kidnapped the wrong Charlie, but he refuses to give up so easily and the delinquent behaviour grows exponentially until the group of bullies turns on itself, their young hostage getting caught up in the action.
The film’s key moments are carried out rather clumsily, considering the effort put into establishing a sense of dissension among the bullies. Bell as protagonist Dean gives an admirably dispassionate performance, but unfortunately doesn’t seem to belong here. Other talented cast members (Glenn Close, Ralph Fiennes) are tragically underused, and Billy’s morally-ambiguous ally Crystal, played coldly by Camilla Belle, seems to have no motive for betraying Dean, or for eventually absconding with him.