“First Kill,” a decently executed but generic thriller, is most notable for advancing the dubious theory that the best way to help a child who is being bullied is to traumatize the heck out of him.
Will (Hayden Christensen) is a high-finance type whose son, Danny (Ty Shelton), a withdrawn 11-year-old, has become a mean boy’s punching bag at school. Will’s solution is to take his citified family (Megan Leonard plays the mother) on a trip to the small town where he spent his own boyhood and teach Danny how to hunt.
As they arrive, the police chief (Bruce Willis, understated here) advises them to stay alert because some bank robbers have recently struck and are still at large. On their first foray into the woods, Will and Danny encounter two of them. Eventually Danny ends up as a hostage to one, Levi (Gethin Anthony, in the film’s best performance), who teaches the boy more about self-confidence and dealing with adversity than Will ever did.
But to learn inner strength Danny sure does have to witness a lot of carnage. In addition to jumping on the anti-bullying bandwagon that is so popular on television and in film at the moment, the movie tries for a second bit of topicality by including a subplot pegged to the high cost of health care. It’s an awkward attempt, and the movie, directed by Steven C. Miller, doesn’t hold a lot of surprises, but there is worse terror-in-the-woods fare out there — rather a lot of it, in fact.
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