No one has fully come to grips with the new teen violence with the consciousness that breeds it. In Pups, the second feature written and directed by the audacious Ash, Stevie (Cameron Van Hoy), a mouthy 13-year-old, finds a .44 Magnum in his mom's bedroom and takes it into the streets of Los Angeles, where he spontaneously decides to rob a bank. He ends up with a half-dozen hostages, but we're never sure if he's playacting in his mind or an actual junior sociopath or, indeed, if there is any longer much difference.
Like most Dog Day Afternoon knockoffs, Pups has a static element beneath its hot-wired surface. Ash, however, is a genuine provocateur-filmmaker. He gets an energized performance out of Burt Reynolds as the FBI negotiator who can't decide whether to treat Stevie as an adult or as a brat who needs a spanking, and Van Hoy is amazing, like a Game Boy junkie-turned-virtual Jimmy Cagney. Pups, which had the bad luck to premiere at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival two days before the Columbine massacre, is now getting a nervous, spotty release. At, say, this year's Sundance, it might have been a sensation.