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TIFF 2023 Review: Bad Boy – “Compelling performance”

After his mother reports him to the police, teenage Dean gets sent away to a brutal juvenile detention facility which lays the foundation for him to become a successful standup comedian.

A professional standup comedian is in a dressing room rehearsing his routine which subsequently elicits a rousing response from his audience. In between are flashbacks which reveal the source of the material that occurred decades earlier when a phone call from his mother leads to him being arrested and imprisoned with other delinquents.  He attempts to use humour in an effort to prevent himself being murdered like his self-professed protector.

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It is never made clear as to what the charge is only that the mother of Dean was responsible for making the call that alerted local law enforcement officers.  The obscurity is heightened further during the court trail with the bulk of it appearing as inaudible highlights which reflects the bewildered mental state of Dean as he unable to absorb what was going on.  What plays against audience expectations is knowing from the beginning that the teenager has survived to become an adult but this is not simply a rags-to-riches story as the past indiscretions literally come knocking in the present day. This rings true and counter to the warden telling Dean that if the names of those responsible for the killing of his friend are revealed that he will be able to go home and that will be the end of it.  Perhaps the warden would have been better to point out that the code of loyalty and silence taught by the deceased was not enough to save him.

Not sure that describing the eight-episode series, which is apparently based on true story, as taking place in a “chaotic and colourful juvenile detention facility” is the right way to go as it implies a quirky comedic affair.  The opening brainstorming of words in the dressing room reflects someone who is mentally disturbed and there is the case of an inmate being killed.  Perhaps the tone of the remaining six episodes playout differently though it is more likely to resemble Euphoria which was also originally created by Ron Lesham.  The most compelling performance is Guy Menaster as the mischievous and naïve teenage Dean as opposed to Daniel Chen as the adult version; however, that might be because the former has more screen time in the first two episodes and the latter serves as a narrative framing device.

The 47th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 7-17, 2023, and for more information visit    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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