“Every year at certain Ivy League colleges, an elite group of students is chosen to join Secret Societies. Unlike fraternities, these Societies conceal their actions as they mold the leaders of the future. At least three U.S. Presidents are known to have been members. The most powerful Secret Society has always been … The Skulls.” The extent to which that statement applies to real life raises all sorts of questions. But it doesn’t matter here. This story is strictly fictional. It’s hard to take Joshua Jackson seriously as a leading man, enveloped as he is by his goofy Dawson’s Creek character, Pacey. He plays Luke McNamara, a young man who has fought his way out of poverty and a wild youth to become an outstanding student at an Ivy League university. He’s working his way through school, developing his athletic skills and is bound for law school—if he can afford it. That’s when he gets a call from The Skulls. Literally. After an extended initiation process that includes drugs, coffins, and acts of trespassing and burglary, Luke is a new man with $20,000 in his bank account, a new car and a secure (read: paid for) spot at a prestigious law school. Then his best friend is murdered, and Luke suspects members of The Skulls are responsible. The chase is on. The fight of his life has just begun.
Positive Elements: Strong overarching moral lessons dominate the film: Stand up for the truth. Do the right thing, even if it means you’ll lose everything, including your life. Never abandon your true friends. Resist the allure of ill-gotten power and money. Don’t walk away when you have the wherewithal to fight for what’s noble and just. Luke does all of these things. He spends the bulk of the film kicking himself for ever being blinded by “the dark side.” And he risks life and limb to set the matter straight.
Sexual Content: Passionate kissing leads Luke and Chloe to begin tearing each other’s clothes off. It’s implied that the two have sex, but the scene quickly shifts away. Minor sexual innuendoes crop up in various conversations. Members of The Skulls are given women as escorts.
Violent Content: Luke finds his friend dead (hung by a cord). Numerous bone-crunching fistfights are displayed in all their “glory.” And a long, brutal car chase develops into a car “bash” in which a Jeep Cherokee batters and rams a smaller car. A police officer (who also happens to be in The Skulls) shoots and kills another member of the Society. A grainy surveillance tape shows evidence of a man’s neck being snapped by his assailants. A duel is staged with antique pistols. As the duel expands into a brawl of sorts, one man is shot. Another attempts to shoot himself in the head, but is prevented from following through. A searing scene shows new members of The Skulls being branded with the Society’s logo.
Crude or Profane Language: A dozen or so s-words are joined by at least as many other profanities.
Drug and Alcohol Content: A Society member smokes a cigar. College students drink beer.
Summary: Power. Greed. Blackmail. Murder. Everything one could possibly want from a secret society. Thankfully, The Skulls doesn’t celebrate these things. Instead it uses Luke to strike out against them. Unlike so many films that trivialize, laugh at, or even applaud crime, this story views it all quite seriously. True, much of the film feels forced and haphazard. Plot points fall flat. Disbelief is suspended only sporatically. But there’s much to praise here. If only the film’s language and violence didn’t stand in the way.