The troubled teen turf may not be the freshest theme on the block, but thanks to a strongly rooted lead performance by Charlie Plummer as a 15-year-old small-town kid who’s well on his way to a stint in juvenile detention, “King Jack” still strikes a resonant chord.
Plummer’s Jack is certainly no stranger to the screen — a bullied, bored, fatherless adolescent with an indifferent big brother (Christian Madsen, son of actor Michael) and an overwhelmed mother (Erin Davie) who’s facing another summer vacation in his dead-end neighborhood with little to do beyond playing video games and defacing property.
He’s not exactly thrilled at the prospect of having to take his chubby younger cousin (Cory Nichols) under his wing for the weekend, but while his presence initially appears to spark something in Jack, it doesn’t provide that redemptive bright light at the end of the tunnel.
Although he’s working with familiar tropes, writer-director Felix Thompson, in his feature debut, wisely keeps clear of big, dramatic moments, maintaining instead a palpable naturalism through dialogue that has an unmannered, improvised feel and acting that follows suit.
But it’s ultimately Plummer’s sensitive turn that makes the picture, winner of the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival’s Audience Award, stand out from the rite-of-passage pack.
While it remains uncertain whether or not Jack will manage to stay out of juvie hall, it’s a safe bet that Plummer, who was in the running for the upcoming “Spider-Man” reboot, has a promising career ahead of him.
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills