April 4, 2000 -- "The Skulls" starts out as a promising-looking thriller about an all-powerful secret society, but it doesn't keep up the suspense very long.
A young college student, Luke McNamara, (played by Joshua Jackson of the TV show "Dawson's Creek") meets a friend, Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker of "Varsity Blues"), who helps him get into a secret society called "The Skulls." The Skulls are powerful and wealthy enough not only to pay his way through college, but get him accepted into any law school in the nation, and give him plenty of spending money besides.
Given this extreme temptation, he seems ready to leave his friends, including Chloe (Leslie Bibb) and Will Beckford (Hill Harper) behind in the dust. But Beckford, a journalist, decides to investigate the Skulls, gets caught and killed. Luke then has to make a tough choice. Should he expose a bunch of killers and liars for what they are, or take the money and run. Well, it's a little more complicated than that.
The story looks promising up to a point, but then it gets downright silly with a series of car chases and improbable coincidences. It looks as if the filmmakers ran out of ideas, or at least intelligence. This turns out to be another in a series of forgettable films by director Rob Cohen (Bird on a Wire, The Running Man, The Witches of Eastwick).
In one scene, we have a man on foot outrunning a car. We have a secret society with secret vault of blackmail dossiers, video tapes and the like, hidden in a library, of all places, with virtually no security! We have a car chase ending in the middle of nowhere, and a shooter is waiting on the spot, even though there was no way he could possibly know the chase was going to end there, unless he read John Pogue's script, of course. And the climax is more like a baffling anti-climax.
The acting isn't bad, except for William L. Petersen (who appeared in "Cousins"). He plays Senator Ames Levritt with a kind of permanent smirk that seems out of place in a supposedly serious movie. It's as if he feels he is in a comedy, and maybe he is. This is a disappointing movie because the trailers for it looked good. Unfortunately, it only rates a C, and that is for the unintended laughs it provides.
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