“The Thinning”: Logan Paul plays undercover hero in a fascist America “made great again” by executing “parasites”

The Thinning” (2016), directed by Michael Gallagher, from Legendary Digital Studios (usually connected to Warner Brothers) specifically for You Tube Red original films, gets attention now as lead actor Logan Paul, who plays the hero teen Blake Redding, drew negative attention recently for a suicide-related video he posted.  That has been said to complicate the production of the sequel, but we’ll all that aside for another time.

The point of the film seems shocking, beyond satire. In 2039 in Austin Texas, a Vista Pointe High School is part prison camp, as every year the kids have to pass a test on an iPad tablet. Those who fail are executed, removed from society.  This is America’s answer to the world population problem exacerbated by runaway global warming.

Some people might say now that such a film puts the idea of doing something like this in play.  That’s the thinking of the trigger warning crowd. But the film has plenty of precedents: the entire “The Hunger Games” franchise, and the 2000 Japanese thriller “Battle Royale”.

Blake is the Governor Redding’s (Matthew Glave) son, and Glave is running for president on continuing to Make America Great Again.  Although the film was apparently shot before Trump’s election victory, it is clearly intended to send a message that we’re headed for Nazi-Germany style fascism, where the weak are eliminated.  In a speech where Redding announces his candidacy, he calls failing students “parasites” whom we “wash out”.  But at the end of the movie he makes a similarly sickening speech where he honor’s the kids’ sacrifice for the Common Good, like the new Soviet Man.  Funny how fascism and communism can join together.

Of course, the film has to become a stereotyped B-movie thriller at some point. Predictably, after Blake loses his girl friend Ellie (Lia Marie Johnson) to the thinning and protests (and isn’t prosecuted because he’s the governor’s son), Blake decides really challenge the system next year and deliberately fails.  Nevertheless, he is selected to pass, whereas tutor Laina (Peyton List) fails in his place. The kids arrange a diversion, with a power failure and some chase sequences as the school is shut down and the scandal exposed.  It’s interesting that at the beginning we learn that Laina had been helping mediocre students cheat by selling them special Google contact lenses to pay for medical treatments for her mother.  (Health care?  Obamacare?)  At the end, we learn what really happens to the failing kids.  Blake is still very much alive and undercover.

I have to say that Logan Paul (who grew up in Ohio) has a spectacular, even perfect, bod on camera.

I’m not personally a fan of the “rotten apples” theory of pulling work by artists because of their “sins” that come to light.

The idea of “ranking and yanking” employees has been common in business.  Furthermore, the idea of doing this to kids reminds me of the Vietnam era draft, student deferments, and the whole “McNamara’s Morons” issue which I’ll take up soon in a book review.

(Picture: Austin, TX, my visit, Nov. 2011)

Name:  “The Thinning”
Director, writer:  Michael Gallagher
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Home, purchase on YouTube for $4.99 HD
Length:  82
Rating:  NA (PG-13 or soft R)
Companies:  YouTube Red, Legendary Digital, Cinemand (Cinedigm?)
Link:  official

Posted: Thursday, January 11, 2018 at 11:15 AM.