High School Big Shot is a 1950s movie about a high school senior named Marvin. Although his father's an (ex-)drunk "between jobs" and he has to work as a shipping clerk after school to feed both of them, he's doing well in his classes, and he's on track to get a college scholarship. Of course, jocks like Vince bully him for making them look stupid — but Vince's girlfriend told him to back off, and is actually showing interest in him. Somehow, life seems fairly good for Marv, all things considered...
The next thing Marv knows, his teacher scuttled any hope of that scholarship after catching their scheme, Betty "let him down easily", his dad's lost another job, and the only ray of hope he has is the million dollars of drug money that he accidentally overheard his boss plan to leave in the warehouse safe overnight prior to a deal with The Syndicate. Surely if he had that money, he could take care of his dad, pay his own way to college, and Betty would like him again! And the brother of the neighborhood liquor store owner's a safecracker...
And Marv puts together plans for a Caper. It doesn't work out, as you can guess in movies like this.
High School Big Shot contains these tropes:
- The Alcoholic: Mr. Grant.
- Crapsack World:
- For Marv it is. He tries to help Betty, and it leads to a domino effect of from bad to worse.
- The overall narrative is pretty bleak and cynical. Consider: There is only one major female character (not counting the landlady walk-on), and she is a shameless and unrepentant Gold Digger; in addition, there are two off-screen females (the liquor store owner's wife and Dad's would-be fiancee), and both are implied to have the same attitude. Meanwhile, the men (Marv, his dad, Vince and the liquor store proprietor) are all pretty much defined by their eagerness to provide said women with whatever they want, without question — or, in Dad's case, by his distinct lack of ability to do so (his fiancee rejects him specifically because, not that he doesn't have a job or means of support, but that he doesn't have money).
- Dirty Old Man: Why exactly does Marv's dad know Betty's the best looking girl in school?
- Downer Ending: Everybody loses. Vince kills Sam, and then brutally guns down Betty by emptying his gun into her for putting him up to the whole scheme. Vince, in turn, is shot and killed by the police while trying to make off with the money. Marv's father commits suicide, and the film ends with Marv not knowing this and tearfully calling out to his father as he's arrested and led away from the scene of his robbery attempt by the police. And he doesn't get his scholarship.
- Driven to Suicide: Marv's dad, past the Despair Event Horizon over being The Load on Marv, hangs himself.
- Freudian Excuse: Several times Betty uses her (possibly abusive) relationship with her father as part of her manipulations of both Vince and Marv. She claims she wants to come back and rub her success in his face.
- Genius Bonus: The safepicker tells his brother when pressed to get a real job, "Would you have a doctor take up a pick? A chemist sit behind the wheel of a truck?" This is incredibly close to Ralph Waldo Emerson's Fate, "His parentage determines it. Men are what their mothers made them. You may as well ask a loom which weaves huckaback, why it does not make cashmere, as expect poetry from this engineer, or a chemical discovery from that jobber. Ask the digger in the ditch to explain Newton's laws: the fine organs of his brain have been pinched by overwork and squalid poverty from father to son." This quote also times in closely to the theme and plot of the film.
- Gold Digger: Betty only cares about either Marv or Vince as long as they can get her what she wants.
- Insistent Terminology: Harry will remind everyone that he is a thief, not a crook.
- Jerkass: Marv's dad.Dad: Betty Alexander? She's the hottest chick in the whole school. What's she doing going out with you?
- Jerkass Has a Point: To be fair, dad's right.
- Loose Lips: If Marv hadn't told Betty he was going to steal a fortune, she couldn't have told Vince, and he wouldn't have shown up to spoil the heist.
- Lovable Rogue: Harry March the safecracker and Sam Tallman the liquor store owner/muscle.
- Love Makes You Stupid: "If I steal from the mob, she'll love me!"
- Manipulative Bitch: Betty. She manipulates Marv into writing her Shakespeare paper while feigning interest in him, then manipulates Vince into trying to steal the mob money from Marv and his group (even though Marv already promised to split it with her) by threatening to hook up with Marv instead if he doesn't go along with it. In the end, her actions lead to Marv losing his chance for a scholarship due to helping her (which leads him to trying to rob the mob in the first place), Vince killing Sam while trying to take the money from Marv, Vince killing her over the first killing before he himself is gunned down by the police, and Marv being carted off to jail.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Marv would have got away with it if he hadn't blabbed his plan to Betty.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Betty tries to cow her and Marv's English teacher after he fails her and withdraws his recommendation for Marv's scholarship. He immediately calls her out for her It's All About Me attitude and not caring a single iota that she is the one responsible for the mess they're in.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Observed in the breach — Marv explains his plan for the caper to be finished before the Mob arrives for the money. They don't make it on time because of traffic and a late ferryboat; fortunately for them, the mobsters had the same problem.
- Unfortunately for them, this seems to have given Vince time to get there and cut off their escape.
- What Have I Done: Vince wasn't as prepared to kill as he thought he was when he tries stealing the money from Marv; he takes out his stress on Betty when she shows up.