Written by / 2/03/2014 / No comments / , , , , , , , ,

FAST TIME TAPS AT THE KILLING OF RANDY WEBSTER

1981 rating: ***
THE KILLING OF RANDY WEBSTER is an obscure television movie featuring three budding talents who would, one year later, be found having FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH…

Fast Times Duo
That being Sean Penn, who plays Don, the title character’s best friend, who, like Penn’s character in RACING WITH THE MOON, is on the ecstatic verge of joining the military…

And Jennifer Jason Leigh as the brooding, semi love interest and Anthony Edwards as another of Randy’s pals, only more rebellious… In fact, Edwards’ Tommy was there the night Randy Webster, a troubled teen who desperately yearns for his father’s attention, steals a brand new van by driving through the showroom glass – all while a groovy rock track blares triumphantly, bringing us back to the early 1980's, still reminiscent of the freewheeling 70's.

The first half of RANDY WEBSTER is the most entertaining – before centering entirely on Hal Holbrook’s John Webster, Randy’s grumpy father, who hadn’t a nice word for the troubled, wayward teen: not even when his son signs up for the Navy to follow in dad's footsteps. The chemistry between Holbrook and Randy himself, played by Gary McCleery, is fitfully non-existent: Holbrook's love for his only child would blossom after the untimely death.

Jennifer Jason Leigh
McCleery was the local smack-talking, dance-crashing “townie” in TAPS (which also starred Sean Penn, and the second movie in which McCleery’s character is shot by an authority figure, catapulting each storyline)... He plays Randy with the kind of intense energy that pleads to be remembered...

Sean Penn
After all, this is a movie about an eventual slaying that, initially reported as defensive by the Houston police department, winds up, as Holbrook’s John investigates further, being yet another “shoot first, ask questions later” situation, supposedly common in this particular Texas area: And here’s where a story full of youthful promise and energy becomes somewhat of an agenda piece, meandering in and out of cold police stations and stuffy courtrooms. That’s not saying the true-life tale doesn’t hold up, but the drive and purpose, like the real Randy Webster, leaves us far too soon: With all the rock music, reckless rebellion and those FAST TIMES actors surrounding our edgy focal point, we really missed out on a party: perhaps if Randy stayed with us a little while longer, the posthumous investigation would mean a lot more to those beyond the family.
Gary McCleery's local townie mouthing-off in TAPS
Gary McCleery as the title character in THE KILLING OF RANDY WEBSTER
Gary McCleery with future RIDGEMONT HIGH pupils Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Penn
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