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Young Americans Movie

Experienced New York Police Detective John Harris is sent to London to help a local task force investigate a series of gangster killings organized by a new player in town, an American.With the help of a young teen wronged by gangsters, Harris navigates London's seedy, drug-fueled underworld in order to take down its new criminal empire.

young americans movie


Visually, a British cousin to Abel Ferrara's CHINA GIRL/KING OF NY work, with urban environments bathed in primary colors and light reflecting off of hard edged glass surfaces. Narratively, it's a pretty routine crime picture, with Keitel's DEA agent flying across the pond to catch Viggo Mortensen's slimy, Brooklyn-accented drug peddler (side note: young Viggo was always an overacting joy). Nothing particularly unique, but solid enough to get the job done, as Old World British gangsters fear for their lives when the young turks move in and start wiping the floor with them. Weirdly enough, Keitel doesn't chew a single toothpick.

The film opens strongly, with a great hook and Keitel plays the ever-boiling investigator as well as you would expect (i.e. very well) but the film feels a pinch unfocused; Viggo and Keitel are said to be familiar foes from America, but their relationship never really reaches a good back-and-forth that this kind of movie needs to build steam. Instead, a lot of focus is placed upon one teenager who is roped into the investigation with ever-dangerous results.

Uncertainty at the end of high school and the imminent decisions about what comes next provide the films central underpinning. A group of friends get together for a last night out and end up with a lot more than that. The youth culture at this time in the early 1960s had still not transitioned into one that would define the rest of the decade and the one after. Optimism and a sense that whatever lay ahead on the horizon was probably good was still alive and well in this slice of Americana. President Kennedy was still in office and Vietnam was not a country most young Americans knew anything about.

This film is a standalone great, boasting well known quotes, an outstanding cast, and an all-time great soundtrack. Where it stands out in its contribution to American youth culture cinema is in its broadening it out from teens. Mining the after-college experience for young people has been fertile territory for film making and this is another example of a blueprint being set for genre. The protagonist is a recent college graduate who should have lot going for himself, or at least everyone around him seems to think so. He himself is far less certain about anything and seems to bump along until deciding to engage in some decidedly unconventional behavior.

Which means that the protagonist is as deliberately hard to admire as he was the first time round, an Asian-American whose insecurities and fragile self-image compel him to tell everyone else when he thinks they're wrong, for their own good, all the time. Does Ben (Justin H. Min) want to assimilate, or does he hold people who already have done to invisible standards that shift with the wind? Or is it just the curse of total honesty? Compulsively chasing the blonde white women of Berkeley, a habit that has already depth charged his relationship with Miko (Ally Maki) even if he hasn't noticed yet, Ben is brusque and exasperating and only has a social life because he's young and cute and has some winsome vulnerability about him.

The dilemma of "Young Americans" exposes an interesting double-standard in Hollywood. While modern-day audiences have embraced pot-loving characters in the "Harold & Kumar" movies, "The Wackness," "Weeds" and the rest, many within the industry are convinced that abusers of other drugs carry more risk of controversy and less comedic potential.

Americans under 30 insist on being heard, at least in the ballot box. Once again, they showed up to vote. In fact, more young voters under 25 registered to vote this midterm election than in 2018, according to CIRCLE Research at Tufts University.

DELLA VOLPE: It's actually the same story for now three cycles in a row. When Gen Z entered the category of young American voters in 2018, we saw they had a significant impact in the 2018 midterm election. We saw a similar effect in 2020. So now, for the third election cycle in a row, younger Americans made the difference in state after state after state. We saw this generation gap continue to play a prominent role. Essentially, what we found was Americans over the age of 40 preferred Republicans. Americans under the age of 40, specifically millennials and Gen Z, strongly preferred Democrats.

DELLA VOLPE: Well, it's a complex question, and I think that's what's often misunderstood about our survey, about public opinion polling. It's not just one single issue. But I think it starts with the idea that well before even the Dobbs decision, young Americans were telling us in our focus groups and our Harvard polling and other research, that they were very concerned about losing their rights and freedoms, that they felt like they were under attack. That's one. A second thing we found was that only 7% a year ago felt like they were living in a healthy democracy. Today, that number is down to 4%.

So those are the - kind of a macro-level concerns that young people have. And then those are only exacerbated by the Dobbs decision, by the January 6 hearings and, really, by this kind of concern that their generation was under attack. And what we saw yesterday was millions of young Americans are actually voting not just for themselves but for those more vulnerable than they are. Essentially, you could say they're voting as a way to fight back.

DELLA VOLPE: We would have had a red wave, actually, if not for younger people because, again, like, if you look at votes of people over the age of 40, between 40- and 49-year-olds, Republicans won by seven points. Fifty to 64-year-olds, they won by nine points, and they won by 12 points among people over the age of 65. That's a red wave, but it's a red wave among baby boomers.

What younger people, specifically what Gen Z, younger millennials did is they stopped the red wave in its course. And as we've been saying over the last couple of weeks, as we released this Harvard survey, that we weren't sure whether we were going to see a red wave or a blue wave, but we were pretty confident that we would see a Gen Z wave. And that's what the data shows 24 hours later.

DELLA VOLPE: Well, I think we will see more young people vote, you know, as they ever have. And one thing that keeps that group of young people voting is knowing that their engagement can make a difference. And the degree to which all young people recognize that they're responsible - not older people but younger people are responsible, whether you like it or not, for having a Democratic president, for having a Democratic Senate, for having their issues that they care so deeply about being addressed - bipartisan gun legislation, historic climate action, student loan debt cancellation - those are issues that we would not be talking about today if not for millions of young people who showed up in November of 2020 and in November of 2018. If they continue to do that, they can eventually see that the America that they envision come to reality.

There is a moment early in the film that defines it. A bunch of young women from Students For Life are in a room. One of them says, "People think that it's all just old white men telling us what we can do with our bodies. It's not. This is about young people in the movement. This is about women." This is about even Democrats. What are we getting wrong when we think about the face of the anti-choice movement, Cynthia?

That's what they're doing. They're really trying to build up this single issue voter block, as well as positioning themselves and appropriating a lot of the language from left-leaning social justice movements to appeal to young people.

It's important for those of us on any side of a conversation to understand what our opponents look like, what they think like, how they are strategizing. It is easy to turn on the news and think that it's just a guy in a Viking hat, storming the Capitol. That it's a cult. It's subtler and requires more thought to show a group of young women who look like they could be your neighbors, your friends, who are soft-spoken, who are polite, who are articulate, who are educated.

They were in pro-life churches. Their families are very much anti-choice. I think they have a lot of understanding for how one would come to that position if you are a young person and your family's very involved in your church community. Your whole church community is anti-abortion. That's your social outlet. That's where you go after school. It's where you go on weekends.

It's how they organize. It's such a big part of so many Americans lives. [Rape survivor and advocate] Samantha Blakely, who was in the film, really came out of a community that was very conservative; the cost of speaking up was huge. The alienation you are likely to experience if you are the one person to raise your hand and say, "Hey, isn't that wrong to make women who don't want to be pregnant carry a child to term? Isn't that wrong?" can't be underestimated. That's why sharing stories and sharing life experience is so important. For many of the young women that you hear in that hotel room, they have come to their beliefs for a whole series of reasons, but not because I think they want to harm others.

I want to talk about something else also though. What is going on is that there are young people like you see in that hotel room who have come to their anti-choice perspectives for whatever reason. Then you have the politicians.

What's happening is normalizing and mainstreaming what is and has been an extremist position and appealing to young people who see themselves as fighting for the right thing. There's a scene with a young man canvassing in Arizona with a young woman for the Susan B. Anthony List. They're going door to door and they're trying to get people to vote anti-choice.


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