REVIEW: Echo Boomers [2020]

Rating: 7 out of 10.
  • Rating: R | Runtime: 94 minutes
    Release Date: November 13th, 2020 (USA)
    Studio: Saban Films
    Director(s): Seth Savoy
    Writer(s): Jason Miller & Seth Savoy and Kevin Bernhardt

You can help me bridge that gap.

I’d never heard the term Echo Boomers until Seth Savoy‘s film (co-written by him, Jason Miller, and Kevin Bernhardt). As a synonym for Millennials, however, it’s pretty apt. Baby Boomers screamed into the void and Millennials bounced back. We (I’m borderline with Boomers saying my 1982 birthdate makes me a Millennial and Millennials saying I’m Gen-X) are mirrors they hate because of how much we remind them of themselves. They call us the “Me Generation” because they believe we’re over-confident and entitled without understanding they were the ones who raised us to be that way. They worked to shift the system to their favor and refused to ever acknowledge how doing so locked us out. They told us we could have it all while standing in our way.

Why can’t we change our car’s oil? Because you didn’t teach us. Why don’t we know “practical” things? Because you cut school funding to the point where they can only afford teaching us what’s on the exams you streamlined and dumbed down. Why do we always get participation trophies? Because you bought them for us. These cause and effect scenarios are infinite. Boomers created the problems they say we’re ill-equipped to solve while also retaining their jobs longer, turning government service into careers, and telling us that we’ll have to change things ourselves if we don’t like it all while doing everything they can to prevent us from doing so. They stole power from their parents and made it practically impossible for us to follow suit.

That’s where the anger arrives. Boomers constructed a ceiling their children cannot rise above and have the gall to call us lazy for constantly knocking our heads into it. Is our rage in response to their hypocrisy therefore why college graduates with 4.0 GPAs like Lance (Patrick Schwarzenegger) and Ellis (Alex Pettyfer) would decide to steal from one-percenters and destroy their material possessions while countless others live in squalor? No. Not really. And Savoy isn’t trying to say it is as much as let it be one ignition point amongst many. As we soon learn from Allie (Hayley Law), everyone on this team (rounded out by Gilles Geary’s Jack, Oliver Cooper‘s Stewart, and Jacob Alexander‘s Chandler) has his/her own emotional reasons to rebel. Politics simply supply a “cause.”

It’s a crutch that ultimately hides their hypocrisy. It helps them sleep at night because they believe they’re doing something when they’re actually doing nothing. Hitting mansions their fence (Michael Shannon‘s Mel) provides isn’t a political statement. It’s not anarchy. It’s criminal behavior masked under artifice. It’s leaning into the “lazy” stereotype by breaking windows rather than instilling real change. Because what’s gained? The victims get their insurance payout. The papers sell a few headlines. And Ellis’ crew earns a few thousand bucks to waste on drugs and booze at nightclubs while amplifying the paranoia slowly building between them. They don’t do it to take money from the rich and give to the poor. They do it for themselves. They become as bad as their marks.

If Savoy supplies any messaging with this glossy, high-octane romp, it’s that punishing the upper class in unsustainable ways isn’t an answer. Stealing their stuff only insulates them more. The answer is to instead make it so they can’t accumulate that stuff in the first place. It’s about shifting the balance towards equality, forcing billionaires to pay their taxes, and ensuring a livable wage for everyone else. So Mel is right when he tells these kids that their politics—the thing that got Lance on-board when illegal activities were the furthest thing from his aspirations—is only hurting their present by creating an identity around crimes better left random and amorphous. Maybe it means something to them at heart, but it’s nothing but a hollow façade in action.

The film is thus a familiar one narratively. Outside the premise introduced by news clips setting up the frustration and inadequacy driving these kids, Echo Boomers is merely about young adults banding together to make a quick buck until hubris and greed pits them against each other in that pursuit. We watch to discover who will turn on whom first and if any allegiances will survive once that initial seed of dissention is found. And we stay invested when the cracks reveal the personal complexities in play. Allie and Ellis started this thing with purpose that has since been lost to her dissatisfaction and his indifference. Lance fought the impulse to join until the motive came into focus—the act itself becoming a conceptual art piece.

Jack, Stewart, and Chandler are more or less hired hands enjoying the ride. They get something out of the act of defiance, but the cash is their sole reason to keep going. It’s why Boomers fought to accrue wealth, buy (or become) politicians, and draft laws ensuring they kept it to the detriment of everyone else who didn’t share their bloodline. It’s why Jack would come to Lance with his idea to cut the rest out of a big score because they’re cousins—family. This underlying notion that we can only truly trust “our own” becomes a huge point of progression and an unavoidable comparison point to what capitalism has already wrought. Loyalty suddenly trumps efficacy. And it only takes one betrayal to tear the whole thing down.

I think there was room to travel that road with more intent (especially since the film is being told in retrospect from jail to facilitate Lesley Ann Warren‘s author’s ambition to understand what they did in context with the economic divide), but don’t fault Savoy for keeping it window dressing on what’s billed as a thrill ride. Don’t also expect to go too deep on that front or assume its presence will be a distraction. It’s there to put this quintet together and let humanity’s penchant for more to rip them apart. The actors are having fun toeing that line and bringing us into the unbridled destruction as a vicarious outlet for which we won’t have to suffer the consequences. It’s style flirting with substance and that’s enough.

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