c (c_regalis) wrote in the_ckr_files,

Little Criminals (movie post)

Little Criminals is a brilliant little movie about underaged criminals. Main character is Des (Brendan Fletcher in his first role), an eleven year old kid, leader of a gang, who spends his time vandalizing, stealing, mugging people. Among the cast are Molly Parker, Sandra Oh (uncredited), Sabrina Grdevich (Slings & Arrows) and Jed Rees (Men With Brooms). Excellent soundtrack, including Radiohead, Headstones and Portishead.
Callum's character is Constable Kostash, one of the Youth Division cops dealing with the kids.

The IMDB page: Little Criminals (1995)
Director is Stephen Surjik (Intelligence, Monk, DaVinci's City Hall, DaVinci's Inquest, Due South (A Likely Story, The X Files), Writer is Dennis Foon (Double Happiness (story editor), Torso).
Brendan Fletcher's filmography includes Tideland, Freddy vs. Jason, Ginger Snaps Back, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, Anatomy of a Hate Crime, The Five Senses, Supernatural (Nightmare).

Cast / Characters:
Brendan Fletcher
Myles Ferguson
Adam Harrison
Jordan Clarke
London Sam Baergen
John Nguyen
Loc Vo
Randy Hughson
Mimi Kuzyk
Dwight McFee
Jed Rees
Callum Keith Rennie
Sonia Norris
Keely Purvis
The troubled kid who leads the gang of little criminals
Des's best friend
Part of the gang
Part of the gang
Part of the gang
Part of the gang
Part of the gang
Stepfather of Cory
A psychologist who tries to understand Des
Dealer who buys stolen goods and sells drugs to kids

Cory's little sister

Year: 1995

Runtime: 120 min according to IMDB, but actually 91 min

Country: Canada

IMDB rating: 7.8 / 10 (290 votes)

Genre: Crime / Drama

Keywords: Child Swearing, Car Theft, Underage Smoking, Trouble, Underage Drinking, Child Uses Gun, Car Crash, Child Driving Car, Children's Home, Shooting, Criminal, Juvenile Delinquent, Suicide, Terror, Child Suicide, Fire, Bed, Children, Young Boy, Independent Film



  • Gemini Awards: Best Picture Editing in a Dramatic Program or Series (Alison Grace)

  • Gemini Awards: Best Writing in a Dramatic Program (Dennis Foon)

  • Geneva Cinéma Tout Ecran: Stephen Surjik

  • Leo Awards: Best Actor (Brendan Fletcher)

  • Leo Awards: Best Editing in a Picture (Alison Grace)

  • Leo Awards: Best Production Design in a Picture (Lawrence Collett)

  • Leo Awards: Best Screenwriter of a Picture (Dennis Foon)

  • Writers Guild of Canada Award: Dennis Foon


  • Gemini Awards: Best Direction in a Dramatic Program (Stephen Surjik)

  • Gemini Awards: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Program (Brendan Fletcher)

  • Gemini Awards: Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Program (Mimi Kuzyk)

  • Gemini Awards: Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Program (Sabrina Grdevich)

  • Gemini Awards: Best Photography in a Dramatic Program or Series (Stephen Reizes)

  • Gemini Awards: Best Production Design or Art Direction (Lawrence Collett)

  • Gemini Awards: Best Sound in a Dramatic Program or Series (Hans Fousek, Paul A. Sharpe, Bill Moore, ...)

  • Gemini Awards: Best TV Movie (Phil Savath)

  • Leo Awards: Best Director of a Picture (Stephen Surjik)

  • Leo Awards: Best Picture (Phil Savath)

There are also 22 user comments, almost all very positive.

One example:
Few movies have impressed me the way Little Criminals have. A heavy centralized community will unavoidably lead to a society where the social standards are wrecked and more people are driven out on the street, flat on their backs.

This is beautifully portrayed, with stunning acting skills, great sound-track and a major touch of reality. A real knockout movie, and a great story of human stagnation and depravation.

The subject of juvenile delinquency are in many ways pushed aside as something we don´t want to talk about, something that stirs, just beyond. "Well, it´s not my kids" have become general expression in the parental world. This has to be dealt with before any, major, urbanisation is to take place again.

Anyway.... Great, Great movie.

You can find all the comments here.

Callum Quotient: small, he's in three scenes for - all in all - about five minutes.


YouTube: The whole movie is available at YouTube, in 10 parts:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10.

(Callum's scenes are in part 4.)

  • [first lines]
    Des: [head resting on table, looks up into video camera] Hello.
    Des: Fuck you!

  • Clarke: Last night was quite the party, Des. Ya gotta wise up, bud.
    Des: What?
    Clarke: Last night?
    Des: I was doing homework.
    Clarke: Right. Get over your pal Stacker. Only he neglected to remember turning twelve last month. That's why he's gonna score six months in the slammer for the job.
    Des: [smirks]
    Clarke: You just keep laughin' Des boy. Come your twelfth birthday I know ten cops who'll be at your door with a cake.
    Des: What if my buds and me jump you? Pour gas on you? Burn your skin off? You only got six shots in that gun.

  • Clarke: Believe me, pal. If you don't slow down you're gonna be dead before you're twenty.
    Des: Promise?

  • Des: We didn't take nothing.
    Officer: Oh you didn't take nothing, huh? Well, we'll find out soon enough. You see, the owner sent us an itemized list of everything.
    Des: Yeah, right. They haven't been there in a months.
    Kostash: See? What'd I tell you? The kid's a (?). He's been casing the joint.
    Des: I'm underage, I got ID.
    Cory: Yeah, you can't touch us! ...right?
    Kostash: That's right. We can't do anything. Except for this. (pulls out phone) Let's call your mum.

  • The movie has never been officially released.

  • Brendan Fletcher makes his acting debut as Des.

  • Myles Ferguson (Cory) died in a car accident on 29 September, 2000.

  • 'It's All Over' by the Headstones is part of the soundtrack

  • The 'Hotel Niagara' (from Hard Core Logo 'Where"s Billy?') makes a short appearance

  • Callum's credited as 'Callum Keith Rennie' at IMDB, but as 'Callum Rennie' in the credits of the movie itself

  • The movie was shot in Vancouver in the spring of 1995.

  • The camerawork is mostly done hand-held and at eye level for a more realistic feeling.

Interesting scenes:

  • the introduction of Des and his Gang, second scene of the movie

  • Des' gang sets a house on fire

  • Des' sessions with the psychologist

  • the last scene

  • all the scenes in between, it's just a great movie, really

Do I want to show this to my parents / friends / co-workers?
Poll #1141419 Little Criminals

Overall rating

quite good, really
not so bad, actually
um, bad


Well, yes, a little.
Yeah, some. Well, okay, more than some.
Quite a lot. Okay. Lots.


Yes! Lots of fun.
It's not a comedy or so, but it's pretty funny.
Sometimes? A bit?
Um. No. Not for me.

Sexual content

Oh yes. All the time.
Yes, actually. Nice.
Hm. The usual? I guess?
Not really, no.
Not even a little. *sigh*

Sexual violence

No, nothing.
No. Well, maybe, just a little bit. With imagination. It's implied, I guess.
Yeah, some. Not much though.
Yes. Indeed.
Is there anything else in this movie?

So, Constable Kostash? Nice guy? Creep? What?
Poll #1141420 Constable Kostash


Hero of the movie.
He's a good guy!
He's... sympathetic.
Um. He's... acceptable? Mostly?

How many people does he kill?

Um. He didn't mean to. Really.
Er. Three? Four?
Um. Was I supposed to count?

Crazy? A lot? A bit?

Not crazy! At all!
Nah. Maybe a bit weird, but that's all.
Well... he might have some problems. Or, okay, more than some.
You know. Quite crazy.

Hot? Or not hot?

Oh yes.
Well, of course he's hot. Weird question.
Kind of hot, yes. To me. Yes.
Hm. Not hot really, no. He's cute.
No. I mean it. No.

Queer? Bent? Straight?

Queer? Not sure if that is a strong enough word here.
Ha! Of COURSE he is.
Well, yes. You know how it is. Let's say... bent.
Huh. I don't think so? Hard to tell though, in this case.
He isn't, no. Really.

Does he die?
You really want to know? Are you sure? Really sure? Well, then. (highlight to read)

::Nope. He doesn't. Not this time. \o/::



I was interviewing some kids in Winnipeg while researching my play Seesaw, when a teacher told me that one of the more hyper 11 year olds I met had been busted breaking into a house with another 11 year old and a four year old. When the police asked him what he was doing, he replied, "babysitting."

I became curious about small kids and crime, and asked the CBC's Jim Burt to commission me to see if there was a story in this. My first phone call was to the Vancouver Police, who told me that there were at least 4 gangs in the city being run by kids under 12. As I peeled the layers, it became obvious that it wasn't just a story about little criminals, it was about kids falling through the cracks. If Des (played to perfection by Brendan Fletcher) is a monster, he's our monster -- society, poverty and the system created him.

This was my first produced long-form screenplay. Overseen by Brian Freeman at the CBC, produced by the brilliant Phil Savath, the film was 100% financed by the CBC, whose Jim Burt gave me only one note: "Be honest, be real." The director, Steve Surjik, loved the first draft and allowed few changes, we had an amazing cast and crew and the result was a brilliant movie that still stands up today.

The only sad thing about this film is that due to budget considerations, the music rights (including songs by Courtney Love and Tom Waits) were only acquired for broadcast. So it's pretty hard to find, though I hear you can try www.vsom.com

Gemini Award, Leo and WGC Awards for Best Screenplay,
Grand Prize, Geneva; International Critics Award, Monte Carlo

From here.

As the debate about violence on television swirls about us, don't be alarmed by what you've read, seen and heard about Little Criminals. Yes, the made-for-CBC-TV, shot-in-Vancouver movie is shocking. And though director Stephen Surjik and writer Dennis Foon have cleverly steered clear of displays of graphic violence, Little Criminals is probably the most disturbing TV drama - because of the indirect violence it suggests - since the inflammatory NFB/CBC-TV co-production The Boys of St. Vincent, several years ago.

There's not a single scene you could say was gratuitously violent, nothing that federal broadcasting czar and self- appointed protector of family values Keith Spicer - the V-Chip champion - could claim as a breach of Canadian TV content codes. Yet Little Criminals is one of the most painful films I have ever seen, and something parents of pre-adolescent and teenage children must watch - and with their kids.

It's about the 11-year-old leader of a gang of midget Vancouver street toughs, who, like characters from a novel that might have been co-written by Charles Dickens and Jim Thompson, wreak havoc on an unsuspecting, supposedly decent public. They loot, batter, burn. They infuriate the authorities because, as underage criminals, they can't be prosecuted. They lie to their parents and spit at their schoolteachers - and with reason. They drink, smoke, and use drugs. They carry weapons. They get many of their signals from behavior learned from TV drama and news shows. They kill. Propelled by the beat and despair of nasty urban rock 'n' roll, they live in the cracks created by a socio-political system that can no longer afford them.

Kudos to Surjik and Foon, and to producer Phil Savath ( Liar, Liar) for creating a drama that is harrowing, yet which eschews the natural urge to sensationalize issues and sentimentalize characters. For most of the movie, we are encouraged to loathe and fear pug- nosed gang leader Des (14-year-old Brendan Fletcher, in his first professional role). He is, until the cause of his emotional suffering is revealed at the end of the film, an utterly repulsive, foul-mouthed thug, every parent's worst nightmare.

Yet never do these kids move into a world adults can't understand. Little Criminals is, in every sense, a classical tragedy about an otherwise worthy and resourceful human being whose destiny is subsumed by the neglect and dispassion of those who should love and care for him. Des is a beast, but at the last moment, as he locks himself into his elaborately decorated closet, we suddenly understand him, want to nurture him . . . but hope we never see him again.

Little Criminals is a remarkable piece of television. I'd hate to think what Americans might have made of it. In casting Fletcher, an untrained actor whose pug nose, mean eyes, and vicious snarl would have alienated any U.S. network producer, Surjik made a bold and smart decision. This boy is wonderful, a natural performer who understands the material intuitively (on a CBC Newsworld report Friday he admitted that violence - ``making someone bleed'' - in TV and movies is ``cool.'')

Moreover, Surjik and Foon obviously decided this material - culled by Foon from countless interviews with youthful offenders - should have no overwhelming moral viewpoint. It's not a story from which adults or children will find solace. Des's partner in crime is a reasonably well-adjusted boy whose major problem is learning to get on with his benign stepfather, a kind and caring reformed alcoholic.

There's a message there, of course, but no answers. The lesson is almost too bleak to be read aloud. But be assured: Little Criminals is relentlessly realistic, a piece of frightening, organic TV theatre that never stoops to the medium's mid- or sub-levels, and which actually elevates television, as The Boys Of St. Vincent did. CBC-TV bosses who helped it along should be proud. If not for public television - its diminishing power and mandate notwithstanding - this amazing, completely Canadian drama might never have been made.

- Gregg Quill, The Toronto Star

From here.

Foon, Dennis (Profile)

On the grainy black-and-white footage of a social worker's assessment video, a boy's tousled head rests upon a desk. Slowly, the cherubic face turns to stare into the lens, impassive. "Hello," he says, his features suddenly erupting in volcanic rage. "F-- you," he spits into the camera. That image of defiant fury unleashes the harrowing story of Des, the fictional 11-year-old gang leader fresh from a spree of robbery and arson in Little Criminals. Exploring the psyche of an underage offender, the $2.5-million CBC drama, airing on Jan. 21 at 9 p.m., delivers two hours of emotional punches to the solar plexus.

In the role of Des, Brendan Fletcher, a novice 14-year-old actor with only two school plays to his credit back home in Courtenay on Vancouver Island, commands the film as cockily as his character does Vancouver's mean streets - all pint-sized swagger and feral cunning. One minute, he tugs the heartstrings as a snuffling wild child, terrified that the zonked-out hooker who is his mother will abandon him to foster care; the next, he counters a policeman's warnings with a chilling riposte: "Me and my buds will jump you, pour gas on you, burn your skin off." Previews of that virtuoso performance have already won Fletcher Hollywood offers, including a role in a movie-of-the-week co-starring Stephanie Zimbalist, which finished shooting last month in British Columbia. Impressed also by the deft pacing of Regina-born director Stephen Surjik, Britain's Channel 4 has purchased Little Criminals.

But the most striking feature of the film is the rivetting, real-life horror of its script - the brainchild of award-winning Vancouver children's playwright Dennis Foon. Four years ago, while researching another drama, the 44-year-old writer first stumbled onto the growing phenomenon of kids involved in increasingly violent crime. "These are the monsters we've created in our society - little Frankensteins," Foon says. "But the question I kept asking myself was: are they criminals or victims? And what are we going to do about it?"

For Foon, the father of two daughters, those questions were particularly charged. As co-founder and artistic director of Vancouver's Green Thumb Theatre for Young People, he had spent most of the past two decades revolutionizing Canadian youth drama. Defying the conventional wisdom that children would sit still only for slapstick fare punctuated by whistles and clowns, he pioneered the notion of bringing their worries and world view to the stage with gritty, kitchen-sink-style realism. In Foon's plays, kids grappled with racial slurs and school bullies, the tug-of-war of divorce and the humiliation of alcoholic parents. His plotlines were spun with such compelling credibility and innovative charm that his dramas were produced in schools across the country and around the world from Dublin to New Zealand.

In Invisible Kids, which won a 1986 British Theatre Award, he examined the bewilderment of immigrant children in Canada through a puckish device: all the newcomers spoke perfect English while their Canadian counterparts muttered only in gibberish. And his five-part series on sexual abuse for the National Film Board, Feeling Yes, Feeling No, has become a staple for classroom prevention programs across the continent.

What brought his work its authenticity was Foon's painstaking research - spending weeks with his subjects, taking down their tales in careful longhand in his lined notebooks. "Dennis did his homework," says Maja Ardal, the artistic director of Toronto's Young People's Theatre, which is mounting productions of two of his plays this month, including his adaptation of a German work called Bedtimes and Bullies. "He went into the schools, into the world of young people and said, 'I'm studying you and I want to know what's important to you.' And they told him their stories. But what is significant is he didn't compromise what they had to say." Her predecessor, Peter Moss, now the creative head of children's TV programs at CBC, agrees. "Dennis has an extraordinary capacity to listen," Moss says. "When you see one of his plays, you know that the kid up on the stage exists out there somewhere."

Still, even after years of listening, Foon was not prepared for the characters he encountered when he landed in Winnipeg in 1992 to research a project for the Manitoba Theatre for Young People. There, he heard of youth gangs led by 11-year-olds with hair-raising criminal histories but the savvy to brag that as long as they were under the age of 12, the police could not touch them. In one school, he met a nine-year-old aboriginal who was already a veteran break-and-enter artist. "The kid was running around the room the whole time, climbing up the back of my chair and throwing things at me," Foon recalls. "He had been busted with another kid and a three-year-old, who he said he was babysitting."

Later, teachers told Foon how once, chased by a teen gang he had double-crossed, the boy fled to the principal's office. "The next day was the first time they ever saw him smile, because he finally got some protection from somebody," Foon marvels. "The image stuck with me. And it triggered me to want to find out a whole lot more: was this just one kid from a freaked-out situation or was it universal?"

Armed with a research stake from the CBC, Foon made the rounds with police gang squads and social workers in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto, discovering what the experts knew only too well: this was no anomaly. One Vancouver treatment centre was so overwhelmed with seriously troubled children - some as young as five - that it had been forced to scrap its waiting list and take only emergency cases. Foon interviewed more than 125 young toughs to produce the composite bundle of trouble he called Des, who is hurling himself at breakneck speed towards jail or his own funeral. Yet, when Foon finished his script, he and his collaborators worried that he had gone too far. "I thought the police and social workers would find it more controversial," agrees Phil Savath, Foon's longtime friend and frequent collaborator, who produced Little Criminals. "But if anything, they thought we were too soft."

Anger surges in Foon's voice as he talks of the plight of kids like Des, betraying what Ardal terms a "new creative rage" in his work. In one recent play, Mirror Game, he traces how a parent's violence translates into the slap that a teenage boy, in turn, deals his girlfriend. "Having talked to kids so much," Foon concedes, "I've become more and more obsessed and upset about how we treat our children."

Friends suggest that his newfound anger is the flip side of the empathy that has allowed Foon to tune into kids' hurts - a quality he owes in part to the anguish of his own misfit childhood. The youngest of three sons of a Detroit scrap dealer, he was born when his father was already severely deaf, crippled with painful arthritis and covered with psoriasis. "I felt very estranged from my father because of his disease," he says, "very alienated and alone." With few friends, he found solace in books and school, where he scored top marks. Then, at 16, inspired by meeting William Ayres, one of the original Sixties' radicals who founded the group known as The Weatherman, Foon led a protest walkout at his high school. Then, he attended the University of Michigan, where he majored in religious studies - the result of countercultural dabbling. "I actually had a religious experience," he says. "I dropped acid and saw God."

At college, Foon at last discovered people he could talk to. And in 1973, he won a creative writing fellowship to the University of British Columbia. To him, Vancouver felt like home - he had spent boyhood summers in Ontario's Algonquin Park - and he never left, eventually becoming a Canadian citizen. For his master's thesis, Foon wrote what he terms "this really bad kids' play." And Jane Howard Baker, the woman who would become his wife, convinced him to produce it. Together, on a federal Local Initiatives Programme grant, they set up Green Thumb - an act of singular bravado since he had no desire whatsoever to build a career in children's drama. "I didn't really have much interest in kids," he admits. "I wanted to write about fantasy - to do groovy things for my contemporaries."

As Savath sees it, Foon was taking an artistic leaf from the credo his father was constantly quoting: if they will not let you in the front door, go in the back door. For Foon, children's theatre was merely the back door to the mainstream stage - one that gave him a chance to import the hottest writers and directors to learn from. Experimenting wildly, he staged a fantastical 1977 production about a village fool's waltz with death called Shadowdance - "a sort of Seventh Seal for children," he terms it - which had the distinction of being banned by some B.C. communities as satanic. But what changed his career was a 1979 drama called Hilary's Birthday by Canadian Joe Wiesenfeld that defied every rule for children's theatre. "It was a realistic play about divorce - just people talking in real-life costumes," he recalls. "But kids sat and listened to every word. I realized then I'd been a total idiot about what I was doing: I'd been completely underestimating them."

With that, Foon found his calling. The stark realism of his plays paralleled similar revolutions in children's drama in Britain and Germany - which he helped introduce to Canada - all with a larger mission than mere entertainment. "We weren't developing audiences," he says, "as much as we were trying to develop citizens."

In 1983, Foon moved to Toronto for a year as writer-in-residence at Young People's Theatre. But he was disconsolate, homesick for his then-five-year-old daughter, Rebecca, in Vancouver. Every day he wrote her, concocting puzzles and stories. In one, a vertically challenged tree is bereft when his only friend, a vocally inept bird, is forced to take flight and migrate south for the winter. The Short Tree and the Bird That Could Not Sing became a prize-winning book and, adapted by Foon as a play three years ago, it won a 1995 Chalmers Canadian Children's Play Award. This month, a YPT touring company will take the play to 240 Ontario schools, ending with a two-week Toronto run in March. And the CBC is currently turning it into an animated series. "I thought, 'Finally I've written something that isn't about anything,' " Foon notes. "Then a therapist came up to say, 'Thank you. You've written the best play about separation anxiety.' "

For years, Foon has chafed at the fact that his fame has been circumscribed by the marginalization of children's theatre. "I've always been dealing with being pigeonholed as a writer for young audiences," Foon says, "and people not taking you seriously." That frustration helped him choose Surjik, 38, who won his commercial stripes with Wayne's World 2, to direct Little Criminals. "I'd heard he was frustrated about being offered nothing but comedies," Foon says, "and I knew he would be looking for a way out."

In 1988, Foon himself was looking for an exit, resigning from Green Thumb and writing a play for adults, Zaydock, about a man coming to terms with the end of his marriage. Three years after his own divorce, the emotions were still painfully fresh. But even that effort, as one critic observed, was the tale of a man-child reluctant to take responsibility. "This guy is grappling with the issues of growing up," Foon concedes. "And in the marriage he's very much been a child." Now the father of a baby girl named Aliayta with his partner, poet-playwright Elizabeth Dancoes, Foon seems reconciled to his gift for reflecting the increasingly complex and perilous universe of the young. For many watching him during the shooting of Little Criminals, that gift seemed no mystery. "We'd have Foon alerts," recalls producer Savath. "Dennis was so excited when he came onto the set, he was like a big puppy. His enthusiasm was just boundless." But so too is his rage at injustice to small spirits - especially the growing number of young people like Des, the casualties of a society that has abandoned them.

Maclean's January 22, 1996


Found at the The Canadian Encyclopedia © 2008 Historica Foundation of Canada.


streetspirit18 has some screencaps here.

Again, please let me know if you have anything to add. I will edit the post to include new information. If you posted something interesting about the movie in your LJ or in some other community, essays, picspams, transcripts, theories... link me please?
Tags: .genre: movie post, actor: molly parker, actor: sandra oh, callum quotient: 5%, film: little criminals, misc: headstones, year: 1995

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