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Film / Dismissed

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"I always find a book to be that much more compelling when a character stands to lose everything."

Disillusioned English teacher David Butler (Kent Osborne) works at a high school where the student populace is largely disinterested in Othello, English literature, and academics overall. That is, until, transfer student Lucas Ward (Dylan Sprouse) shows up in his class. Bright, driven, and charming, Lucas quickly becomes one of his favorite students, until he turns in a paper in defense of Iago and is given a B+. Hellbent on getting his grade changed to the A he feels he so rightly deserves, Lucas quickly shows he will stop at nothing to get what he wants, a determination that spells out nothing but trouble for David.

Dismissed is a 2017 independent thriller/horror film, marking Dylan Sprouse's return to acting after a six year hiatus. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on October 27, 2017, and was released worldwide through digital media and video on demand on November 21st of that year. On February 19th, 2018, "Dismissed" was released on Netflix.

Cast Includes:

Dismissed includes the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Lucas's father, Mr. Ward. It's heavily implied that his drinking is due to having to cope with, cover up, and move cities because of the consequences of Lucas's sociopathy.
  • Adults Are Useless: Mr. Ward knows full well what his son is, but does nothing to stop him due to love and fear. Meanwhile, the rest of the faculty blatantly refuse to believe Lucas is insane until it's too late.
  • Advertised Extra: Randall Park is prominently featured in the trailer, but has about five minutes of screen time total.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Rebecca's crush on Mr. Butler.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: After Mr. Butler turns her down, Lucas offers to meet with Rebecca and help her, coaching her to write a letter in an example of this. In reality, he's manipulating her into writing her own suicide note, and kills her.
  • Arc Symbol: Chess and Othello.
  • Badass Bookworm: Lucas, of the villainous variety.
    • Mr. Butler more than qualifies in the end.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: David Butler. Meek, amenable, albeit disillusioned in his job. But the moment you begin messing with him and his family, he will do everything in his power to obliterate you.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Lucas is this to Rebecca. It ends up being the death of her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lucas is arrested, and David gets his job back. But Rebecca, his wife Nancy, and Mr. Ward are all dead, he nearly murdered a teenager, almost went insane and is clearly shaken up by the events, and a student that had nothing to do with him aside from being First Chair in his chess club is irreversibly blinded and said to have hearing damage.
  • Break the Cutie: Rebecca and Nancy Butler end up in the line of Lucas's fire. It doesn't end well for either of them.
  • Calling Card: The chess piece Lucas leaves behind.
  • Cassandra Truth: David did his damndest to convince his boss, his wife, and the police that Lucas is a sociopathic lunatic. No one believes it until it's far too late.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Rebecca's sweater and the glass apple paperweight.
    • The entire opening credits scene is loaded with them: the chess pieces, the video, etc.
  • The Chessmaster: Lucas believes himself to be this in-universe. He is an accomplished chess prodigy, and chess itself is an arc symbol throughout the film. When he abducts David's infant son, he leaves a chess piece in his swaddling blanket, next to the body of Nancy Butler.
  • Child Prodigy: Lucas, while a dangerous sociopath, is an incredibly gifted and intelligent teenager.
  • Creepy Child: The film opens to a video of a child making various facial expressions into the camera, his eyes completely void of emotion. Later in the film, it's explained that the child is Lucas rehearsing emotions, since he cannot feel them.
    "Sadness. That was always the hardest one for you."
  • Determinator: Lucas is this in deadly, villainous spades.
  • Dies Wide Open: Mr. Ward and Nancy Butler.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Mr. Butler gives Lucas a B+ on his Othello paper. The remainder of the movie is his ensuing Roaring Rampage of Revenge against him, including slashing his tires, drying out all of his whiteboard markers, and then stealing and sabotaging his application to a position at a University. When Mr. Butler gives him an F on his report card in retaliation, it results in Lucas trying to frame him for having a sexual relationship with an underage student, killing said student when the plan backfires, breaking into David's house and murdering his wife, abducting his child, and then trying to kill both the baby and David. His murder of Rebecca is what leads his father to commit suicide.
    • A slightly minor example, Lucas is given Second Chair at an upcoming chess tournament against a rival school. In spite of the perfectly reasonable explanation (the classmate given First Chair has seniority, and it is impressive that in a few short weeks he has been given Second Chair) and his acceptance of the circumstances, Lucas blinds the student.
    • The history teacher at his old school, Mr. Garrett, gives Lucas a B on a paper, much like Mr. Butler. Lucas was fully aware that he was a reformed heroin addict, and paid his old roommate to show up at his house and shoot him up with heroin. Lucas hid in the bushes and filmed it, blackmailing him into giving him an A. It's implied that the Wards moved due to Lucas getting Mr. Garrett back on drugs.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mr. Ward.
    • Subverted completely with Rebecca. After encouraging her to confess her feelings for Mr. Butler in an effort to sabotage him, when it doesn't work out Lucas tricks her into penning her own suicide note, offers her a consoling hug, and then forcibly shoves her off the roof of the school to her death, the note still in her pocket. It appears as if she committed suicide over the rejection.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Sociopath or not, Lucas is clearly shown to have some sort of love and admiration for his father, and seems to be both taken by surprise and saddened when he realizes his father overdosed on prescribed painkillers. He even sits with his father as he dies, dabbing at the corners of his mouth with a handkerchief. He also has a photo of his mother holding him as a baby on his nightstand, though she died when he was a child. It's left up to interpretation as to whether or not he killed her, too.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Lucas, until his Sanity Slippage causes him to descend into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and this is dropped completely.
  • Foreshadowing: The opening credits is a mix of this and a parade of Chekhov's Guns. Notably, the reflection of Lucas in the photo of his mother during the opening credits is a flash forward to Lucas's Villainous Breakdown.
  • I Have Your Wife: David's infant son is kidnapped and held hostage by an unstable teenager well on the path to becoming a full-fledged serial killer.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Lucas is shown to have a predilection for recording things, whether it be his own emotions or people in precarious situations that jeopardize their jobs or lives. Upon realizing this, David bursts into his house and ransacks his room, finding the camera he used to record Rebecca coming onto him. This leads to his expulsion from school, as David shows the police and the school principal, and also leads to his Roaring Rampage of Revenge that ultimately ruins him.
  • Improvised Weapon: During the climax, Lucas and David start attacking each other with whatever they can get their hands on. For Lucas, it's a pen, which he stabs David with. For David, it's the glass apple paperweight, which he beats Lucas over the head with.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Lucas kidnaps and threatens the life of David's newborn son in the climax, but he survives.
  • Kill the Cutie: Poor Nancy and Rebecca.
  • The Lost Lenore: Mr. Ward clearly loved his deceased wife quite deeply, and it's hinted that his alcoholism is in part due to her death.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer heavily implies that Lucas and Rebecca are a couple (albeit one-sided). In the film, Rebecca is in love with Mr. Butler, and Lucas is manipulating her affections to suit his own agenda.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Convince the principal you're an innocent young man unaware of the darkness around him to get what you want? Check. Call your teacher's friend from high school, pay him to come into town and to get your teacher hooked on drugs over a grade, all while avoiding suspicion until you show the teacher the video you took of him shooting up? Check. Convince a girl that trusts you that her crush on your teacher is reciprocated, and then kill her when she's outlived her usefulness? Check. Lucas Ward, Manipulative Bastard.
  • Mask of Sanity: Lucas initially is presented as a well-spoken, bright, and mature teenager. The first indicator we get to show that this isn't the case is when his hands are shaking in rage while he's taking notes due to a classmate talking beside him. When the kid tries to intimidate Lucas after he confronts him for disrupting the class, Lucas drops the façade and threatens to stab him through the roof of his mouth with a fountain pen, brandishing it within an inch of the kid's face.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: After Lucas gets expelled when there was evidence against him that he murdered Rebecca, David then tells Lucas that there was actually no restraining order against him. This then leads to Lucas going to David's house and murder his wife and then kidnap his infant son.
  • Papa Wolf: David was just trying to get Lucas to stop ruining his life, but once Lucas murdered his wife and kidnapped his newborn son? He nearly murdered him with a paperweight.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: See Disproportionate Retribution.
  • Sanity Slippage: The more David refuses to change Lucas's grade to an A, the crazier Lucas becomes.
  • Satellite Character: Basically the entire cast with the exception of Lucas and David serve little to nothing for the plot, except probably Rebecca.
  • The Sociopath: While both Mr. Garrett and David refer to Lucas as a psychopath, he actually qualifies as this.
  • Squick: In-universe. Rebecca corners David in his classroom after school after Lucas coerces her into confessing her love for him, cupping his genitals and asking him to open her like a book. Understandably horrified, he shoves her away and demands she leave.
    • In the final confrontation, Lucas stabs a pen into the base of David's neck.
  • Teacher's Pet: Lucas fashions himself as this in the beginning, going so far as to buy Mr. Butler a glass apple paperweight. This later bites him in the ass, as David beats him with it in the climax.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Zigzagged. Rebecca is in love with Mr. Butler, something Lucas figures out quite easily. He uses her crush on him in his quest for sabotaging David, but it fails due to his horrified rejection of Rebecca. When Rebecca is found dead and her sweater is found in Mr. Butler's classroom, both the principal and the police officer believe this to be the case and fire David.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer gives away many incidents that show Lucas as the villain, including him blinding a student, the showdown between David and Lucas, and Lucas murdering Rebecca.
  • Villain Has a Point: While it in no way justifies his actions, Lucas does have a right to be angry about getting a B+ on his paper just because David felt the thesis statement was an improper interpretation of the play. Lucas did adequately back up and argue his thesis with textual evidence and David even admits that the paper was well written.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After Lucas receives his report card and sees Mr. Butler failed him, he quickly flies into a rage and begins trashing his room, and then murdering people.
  • Walking Spoiler: Rebecca. It's nearly impossible to talk about her without talking about Lucas murdering her.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The chemistry teacher, Mr. Sheldon (Randall Park), is fired after Lucas blinds a student during his class. It's alluded that he was a grossly inept teacher and that attributed to his termination, but no word of him is mentioned after he's fired.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Well after Lucas has established that he's out for blood and has attempted to threaten and sabotage David, he decides to flunk him to provoke him. This goads Lucas into piling up a body count.
  • Wicked Cultured: Lucas doesn't carry a backpack, he carries an attaché case. He wears slacks and a buttoned dress shirt almost daily, and slicks his hair back. Exceptional chess player, offers a flawless eulogy for Rebecca in impeccable French, is incredibly well-read and an English prodigy, and quotes Shakespeare. He's seventeen at most.