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Review: Cast burns bright in 'Hot Summer Nights'

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News
Maika Monroe, left, and Timothée Chalamet in “Hot Summer Nights.”

"Hot Summer Nights" is herky-jerky, filled with cliches and tonally all over the place.

It's pretty cool.

First the cliches: This is a movie about a summer resort town on Cape Cod in which rich spoiled brats mix with local blue collar types. A local Casanova/bad boy becomes besties with a geeky out-of-towner. They partner up and make a killing dealing pot under the guidance of a nefarious kingpin. The geeky kid falls in love with the bad boy's sister, who just happens to be -- what else? -- the hottest girl in town.

That geeky kid would be Daniel (Oscar nominee Timothee Chalamet, expanding his portfolio). He's sent by his mother, in the summer after his father's death, to live with his aunt. He doesn't really fit in but miraculously become friends with Hunter (Alex Roe), a handsome pot dealer. At the same time he falls for local beauty McKayla (Maika Monroe); in time he realizes that McKayla and the potentially violently protective Hunter are siblings. He decides to keep quiet about McKayla.

Daniel decides he wants in on the pot business. Then he decides he wants to expand the pot business, which ushers in big-time dealer Dex (a delicious Emory Cohen). Monetarily it's a good move; in terms of self preservation, not so much.

First-time writer director Elijah Bynum veers from baroque comedy to teen romance to ultra-violence and tragedy in what's billed as a "mostly true" story. That's the thing about cliches -- they're borne of reality. And his excellent cast -- which includes a knockout cameo from the perpetually underrated William Fichtner -- sells the pinball-frantic enterprise, jumping tones and moods in perfect sync.

You've seen it all before. But you haven't seen, and should, "Hot Summer Nights."

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.

"Hot Summer Nights"


Rated R for drug content and language throughout, sexual references, and some strong violence

Running time: 107 minutes

Hot Summer Nights (R)

Timothee Chalamet stars as a geeky teen transformed into a drug dealer during one summer on Cape Cod in this cliche-riddled pinball-frantic comedy-tragedy romance that features some fine performances. (107 minutes) Tom Long/Special to The Detroit News GRADE: B