Keith Gordon, who acted in 'Dressed to Kill,' 'Christine,' and 'Back to School,' made his directorial debut with this adaptation of Robert Cormier’s much-banned young-adult novel.Ilan Mitchell-Smith is Jerry Renault, a freshman at the well-appointed Trinity prep school. Trinity is holding its annual chocolate sale, and Jerry refuses to participate — first on the orders of the Vigils (Trinity’s secret student society), then of his own free will. The Vigils’ “assigner” Archie Costello (Wally Ward) joins forces with the wormy Brother Leon (John Glover) to force Jerry to sell the chocolates.
Gordon takes most of the events right from the book, so he catches the intricate power games between Archie and Leon, between Archie and his right-hand man Obie (a pre-X-Files Doug Hutchison), and between Archie and Vigils president Carter (Adam Baldwin, a bit too old for his role). In fact, Archie (played by Ward with fine icy malice) is more interesting than Jerry.
Purist Cormier fans will find the movie far from perfect; it alters Cormier’s uncompromising finale, though Gordon himself feels his ending is “unsettling in a different way,” which it is. In any event, the story is a classic about grace under pressure and resisting conformity, and it’s a noble first effort from a director who has never sold out.Glover thoroughly enjoys himself as the casually sadistic Leon; Bud Cort also turns up in a gleeful cameo as Brother Jacques, who turns his students’ prank back on them.