WHO SHOT PATAKANGO? is an unceasingly cheery backward glance at life in a racially mixed 1950s high school. Bittersweet and episodic, the film's loose-knit narrative structure seems appropriate since this is the dreamchild of a husband and wife team of documentarians. Unfortunately, the
filmmakers never piece together all their teen trials into a cohesive entity.
The title derives from an incident in which the shooting of a teenager suggests racial tensions to the media and neighborhood cops. (In reality, the nitwit shot himself while making a zip gun.) It is this film's interesting premise that Black and white students at Alexander Hamilton High School
got along when left to their own devices, but that trouble arose in the form of outside gangs invading the school territory. Although poverty and violence encourage dropping out, the students portrayed onscreen remain in school without really taking advantage of the opportunity to learn.
Of all the mischievous students in his care, Mr. Donnelly (Damon Chandler) has highest hopes for Bic Bickham (David Knight). Troubled by his homelife with his embittered blind father (Jim Flanagan) and forever having to explain the facts of inner city life to his younger brother Mark (Kevin Otto),
Bic flirts with juvenile deliquency. Along with his African-American counterpart Cougar (Aaron Ingram), Bic is brutally questioned by the cops about gang warfare. Although innocent of that charge, he's nearly caught stealing from parking meters to finance a date with dream girl Devlin Moran
A college coed from Sarah Lawrence, Devlin is the vision of a better life to which Bic decides to cling. After a chance meeting in Greenwich Village, the two fall madly in love despite the disparity of their backgrounds. As Bic and his buddies drift toward graduation, he worries about the future
and frets that Devlin won't forgive him after he decks her former boyfriend with a pitcher of beer. Pooling energies with Cougar to produce the school talent show, Bic resolves to rise above his circumstances.
Highly personal and tripping over its own nostalgia, WHO SHOT PATAKANGO? is a glance backward that has the texture of a mosaic of fond memories insufficiently dramatized to involve anyone who wasn't there. Featuring the oldest-looking teenagers this side of WEST SIDE STORY, the film has its heart
in the right place but its technique falters. Not only do all the little vignettes about Bic's friends fail to connect with the viewer but also the central romance is a tired, conventional Romeo and Juliet scenario.
Sometimes the gang attacks from local toughs are played for laughs, and the entire memory play seems superficial. Could life back then possibly have seemed so rosy? It's not the events themselves but the way the filmmakers portray them. The attitude is "Sure we had zip guns and chains, and we
never paid attention in class but, man, wasn't that a time?" While the early rainbow coalition message is a heartwarming one, the film seems to be coloring THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE with hues more appropriate to TV's "Happy Days." Imagine a high school where everyone is either the Fonz or one of the
If you're in the mood for fifties rock 'n' roll and enjoy sappy romances, then you may enjoy WHO SHOT PATAKANGO? Others may not find much delectation in a film that puts vandalism and petty crime in the same fifties time capsule as "American Bandstand." Ah, the happy memories of hooliganism.
(Violence, profanity, nudity.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: WHO SHOT PATAKANGO? is an unceasingly cheery backward glance at life in a racially mixed 1950s high school. Bittersweet and episodic, the film's loose-knit narrative structure seems appropriate since this is the dreamchild of a husband and wife team of doc… (more)