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I’d bet that the majority of you would’ve cheated in something at school at least once. If you’re anything like me you just took a glance at someone else’s paper every now and then rather than taking in notes and sticking them on your thigh among other things. But imagine if you were so good at cheating you didn’t have to study at all, and you made friends and money by being able to distribute the answers to exams before you were due to sit them. Brilliant!

Movie
Cheats, not to be confused with a similar story called Cheaters, follows a group of four teenage students who have cheating down pat. The ringleader is a bloke called Handsome Davis (Handsome?! What kind of name is that?!!), who has the gift of the gab and is able to break into anywhere in order to steal the latest exam paper. Think a poor-man’s version of Billy Tepper from Toy Soldiers. His buddies are your usual fare, from straight-man Sammy, lunatic Victor and nerdy Applebee who can write “crazy-small” so the boys can cheat.

Cheats (Rental)

The principal (played by Mary Tyler Moore) knows the boys are cheating but can’t seem to pin them down. They’re the popular guys around campus because they’ve got all the answers, which the voiceover constantly rams down our throats. But the boys remain one step ahead all the time, even when a tip-off reveals they have a copy of the janitor’s key. Handsome comes up with all the plans and puts the wheels in motion to make sure they come out on top once again. But things were always bound to change, otherwise this wouldn’t be another one of those B-movies released straight to DVD.

The boys toy with the idea of giving the whole game up, some even thinking of blowing the whole scam wide open by informing the headmaster. The constant threat of expulsion or a blight on their permanent record hangs over their heads, and the conflict is that it really does get the better of a couple of them.

The action moves along at a pretty quick pace, making this lower-budget films one of the more impressive of recent times. It’s always good to be taken back to your school days when rebellion was always and issue, and this film is no exception. But there’s still nothing all that remarkable about it to make it stand out as a solid piece. It’s not a patch on Cheaters, which admittedly aims for a darker tone than this very light-hearted piece. The performances are actually quite good all round, with Moore and Trevor Fehrman as the stupidly-named Handsome the standouts.

Overall this is quite an enjoyable film without doing anything really remarkable to lift it up to great. For a low-budget, straight-to-video release it’s probably as to be expected, but there is some value in this film as a whole. The short running time helps to give you a pretty mindless little piece that’ll make you wish you were a bit more of a rebel during your school days. Worth a look, but just don’t go expecting too much.

Cheats (Rental)

Video
Another Roadshow piece means we get a pretty good transfer with this one. The colours are quite vibrant and the sharpness is pretty good, if a little soft in places. No grain at all to be seen and aliasing on only the most tricky of places, but nothing that will distract you at all. This 1.85:1 transfer will have you interested in the action rather than any imperfections in the print.

Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack included on the disc tries its absolute hardest to give us something of note but for a dialogue-driven film there’s really nothing that can be done to lift it up a notch. The music, however, gives the audio a much needed boost, with various rock tracks played including Australia’s own The Living End. Surround use is minimal and the woofer kicks in only for the more bass-driven music tracks, meaning this is pretty much an average audio mix. That said, there’s no real need for anything ground-breaking with this film.

Extras
The boys have stolen all but the theatrical trailer, leaving a very bare extras section indeed. It’s actually not really a theatrical trailer at all, with the final few seconds telling us to “bring it home” on video & DVD. The trailer itself is quite impressive, making this one out to be a lot more exciting than it really is.

Cheats (Rental)

Overall
There’s some real value in this one for those after an easy-to-watch piece that won’t outstay its welcome. The action moves along at a healthy pace and the performances are quite good from a relative bunch of unknowns. It’s nothing really outstanding but a decent video transfer and serviceable audio will make sure you’re focused on the action. Not surprisingly there are basically no extras to speak of so you’d want to really like this film to shell out your hard-earned.


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