Streaming Releases: Derivative Hellfire: Hot Summer Nights (2018) Reviewed

Armed with a slick marketing campaign that calls back to the late '80s and early '90s, Hot Summer Nights is a hard line bait and switch that cashes in on the nostalgia of way too many other movies. The highly colored and stylized one sheets are a reminder of a time when a poster could sell a motion picture. Playing right into our desires for all things retro, this directorial misfire has a barebones story that never lets Chalamet or Monroe do their jobs as talented actors. 

I'm SO bored. 

As one of the most derivative piles of non-creative media released this year, talent is wasted on a motion picture that has barely any story to tell while it rips from a thick catalog of film that wants you to remember your youth. Using a killer soundtrack that is truthfully the biggest asset of the entire project, viewers will literally sit in front of their televisions calling out the many movies that this tries to imitate and lift plot points from. For some this might be fun. For others (myself included), this is an exercise in annoyance and boredom. With so many young actors involved, it's nearly unbelievable that this was Hot Summer Nights' final form. 

Chugging along with no momentum whatsoever, director and writer Elijah Bynum tries to cash in on the current trend of teenage nostalgia but ultimately fails to find focus or the fortitude for actual story telling. Considering the great casting choices here, one has to wonder how this even found its way into production and how no studio head or producer pulled back the reins on a non-focused motion picture of such magnitude. As a first time full length director, Bynum fails to find the heart of his subject matter or the era which he's working. At some points, it feels like he might jump right off the ledge and stick the landing. But at each and every turn, he fails to keep us interested in a plot that's so dull and convoluted. 

Sometimes we want to like something just because the story seems familiar or easily digestible. Hot Summer Nights feels like opportunity wasted with ever lin read. Even Monroe and Chalamet seem out of sorts with a script that never abandons the constructs to which it's so deeply rooted. As a film about a teenager finding new life as a drug dealer, Bynum's work skims the surface, never makes us feel threatened, and plays everything cautious and safe. Other than a couple scenes of unexpected violence, Hot Summer Nights is cold movie boredom.