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Cheaters
Обманщики (2000)
Movie
  • Director:
    John Stockwell
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    John Stockwell
  • Cast:
    Jeff Daniels,Jena Malone,Paul Sorvino
  • Time:
    1h 48min
  • Year:
    2000
In the fall of 1994, a teacher at Chicago's run-down Steinmetz High recruits seven students for an academic decathlon team. They work long hours, preparing for the February regional event, won for ten straight years by a privileged, preppy school. Steinmetz finishes just well enough to be invited to the state meet. When a team member steals a copy of the state test, the teacher and kids face a dilemma: to remain honest, or to cheat and score a victory for kids in underfunded schools. When they do well, they must face a withering barrage of investigations, accusations, lawyers' lies, and reporters' intrusions. Is it all worth it? What lessons does cheating teach?
Casts
Cast overview, first billed only:
Jeff Daniels Jeff Daniels - Dr. Gerard Plecki
Jena Malone Jena Malone - Jolie Fitch
Paul Sorvino Paul Sorvino - Constantine Kiamos
Luke Edwards Luke Edwards - Darius Bettus
Blake Heron Blake Heron - Matt Kur
Dov Tiefenbach Dov Tiefenbach - Irwin Flickas
Dan Warry-Smith Dan Warry-Smith - Paul Kurgan
Anna Raj Anna Raj - Agnieska Maryniarczyk
Dominik Podbielski Dominik Podbielski - Dominik Wesolowski
Ned Eisenberg Ned Eisenberg - Robert Clifford
Robert Joy Robert Joy - Larry Minkoff
Lenka Peterson Lenka Peterson - Mrs. Plecki
Alex Poch-Goldin Alex Poch-Goldin - Jerry Marconi (as Alex Poch Goldin)
Karen Glave Karen Glave - Corrine Davis
Marcia Bennett Marcia Bennett - Joan Isenberg

Обманщики (2000)

The real-life Jolie Fitch, who was played by Jena Malone, was interviewed by the press in 2000 (at the time of the release of the movie), noting that she had dropped out of college because she was pregnant. She now works at a department store in the suburbs of Chicago.

The film is based upon the events of the infamous Steinmetz Cheating Scandal that took place at the Illinois Academic Decathlon State Championship in 1995, in which the real-life Dr. Gerald Plecki and his seven students did lose to Whitney Young High School at the Regional Decathlon Championship but mysteriously won the State Championship. Later the students were accused of cheating by the State Decathlon Committee, the Department of Education, and Whitney Young (which lost to Steinmetz at the competition). It was eventually discovered that the students did cheat, although several of the students to this day maintain that they did not.

The real-life Dr. Gerald Plecki was paid a consulting fee during the film's production.

During filming, director John Stockwell and his production crew discovered that they were prohibited from entering the real-life Steinmetz High School just to film on location in the building. Therefore, even though they were unwelcomed and uninvited on the campus grounds, they managed to film the outside front of the building. Most of the filming took place inside a Toronto high school, which was used in place of the real school.

Director John Stockwell and the film's producers hired a private investigator to track down the real Dr. Gerald Plecki. It took nearly half a year to convince Plecki to sell his rights and become involved in the production.

Tat
Tat
What I absolutely loved about this movie is the fact that it displays a genuine moral dilemma without necessarily preaching anything. It doesn't provide viewers a standpoint for moral ascendancy, instead, the viewers get the pleasure of interpreting the situation, thus gaining that threshold for ascendancy.

I'd say the film did play out a bias, and the bias was in favor of the students from Steimetz High. I'd say that it is rather a fair bias, because it is rare to see the cheaters as the protagonist. Amidst this, they weren't portrayed as the over-glamorized heroes that will promote a cheating society. What John Stockwell did was to give us a dose of reality, an arena for sympathize with cheaters, at the same time, displaying the consequences of the human act.

I love the mixture of documentary footages. Opening Credits was awesome, wherein there were raw footage in grainy stock of actual American high school. It played greatly on the emotional framework that the film worked on and I'm so glad my parents were able to find a copy of the film on DVD.
Jox
Jox
I saw this film when it debuted on HBO earlier tonight. I was pretty impressed by the story (by director John Stockwell), about a group of inner city Chicago youths who decide to cheat on their Academic Decathlon exams. The element that drives the story, however, is its performances, especially Jena Malone as Steinmetz student Jolie Fitch and Jeff Daniels as Decathlon advisor Dr. Gerard Plecki.

These youths decide to cheat solely for ambition, to beat the rival Whitney Young Decathlon Team (who wins every year) at the State finals. Basically, they're desperate, being an inner city school whose funding is based mostly on athletics. Daniels goes along with the plan because of this: to make a statement on how much focus is more on athletics and less on academics.

The only reason I decided to watch this film was for Jena Malone, who's one of the more talented young actresses cropping up out of obscurity. She's only fifteen, yet she's a better actress than women twice her age. She's even being compared to a young Jodie Foster. Hopefully, she'll continue to accept performances that aren't from your latest American teen comedies.

I did manage, however, to find a good story out of this, somewhat reminiscent of "Stand and Deliver," which the students actually watch in one scene. Whether or not we agree on Dr. Plecki allowing the students to cheat, we'll always agree that it's the teacher's responsibility to teach, and teach morally. Make up your mind about cheating; this story focuses on cheating and its consequences, and will probably be one of those great films not too many people will see.

Had it been released to theaters, it would've done modestly in the theaters and been critically acclaimed, then fade away after a couple of weeks. But it's good enough to win a few hearts and minds. Watch it for Jena Malone, though. I did, and I wouldn't be surprised if she was nominated for an Emmy here.
Bragis
Bragis
I was so stunned by the power of this movie that I had to watch it a second time to give it a more objective assessment. I came away from the second viewing every bit as impressed.

We learn from the opening scene of the movie that things will turn out badly for the cheaters, the kids who made up the 1994-95 Academic Decathlon team for Chicago's working-class Steinmetz High, and that their downfall was of their own making. But this movie refuses to be a simple morality play. It looks at the scandal from the viewpoint of the participants, and examines why they cheated and how they came to justify their actions. It's a refreshingly honest look at how effectively the mind can blur the distinction between right and wrong. Each character's moment of decision is captured so effectively that the viewer may very well find himself rooting for the teacher and his students as they exult in their short-lived triumph.

The whole story plays out in a realistically-portrayed inner city school, and succinctly presents the values that flourish in such an environment, where ideas of what's fair are colored by the feeling that life hasn't been very fair to these kids from the very beginning. One comes to realize that the central characters' greatest triumph came not in their ill-gotten victory, but in simply wanting to overachieve against all odds in such an environment.

The acting in this movie is top-notch across the board, from Paul Sorvino, Jeff Daniels, and each of the seven kids. But special mention has to go to Jena Malone for her memorable portrayal of Jolie, the brilliant and sharp-tongued inspirational leader of the team who remains defiant to the very end.

I give this movie a 10!
Gnng
Gnng
I can see how some might find this film rewarding - watching the little guy take down the overbearing elitists that win every year. Those homogeneous white kids at Whitney Young all wear button down shirts, and come from privileged backgrounds. And that Larry Minkoff, he just wanted his team to crush the other schools. That all makes nice drama, but has little to do with the actual story. Sure, Cheaters, is based on a true story, but its omissions and perversions of the truth make it little more than a piece of trash.

You won't be surprised to learn that I actually went to Whitney Young. When I first saw HBO's incarnation of my high school, I had to laugh – WY is a Chicago Public School (although a magnet) with a minority of white students and not an Oxford shirt to be found. I got over it pretty quickly, however, when the film turned into a character assassination of a man that had died tragically the previous year and kids that had worked their butts off to get where they were. Cheaters portrays WY as claiming Steinmetz cheated because they beat them. In reality, Steinmetz was the only school in the competition to improve – literally every other competing school's scores, including WY, had dropped significantly. Young raised the charge, but they were not alone in thinking something other than increased study time at Steinmetz's had happened.

I appreciate how difficult it can be for neighborhood schools to compete with magnet schools, which select students based on test scores and are given more flexibility with curriculum. It provides a disparity that can be very difficult or even impossible to overcome. The ultimate message of Cheaters, however, seems to be that sometimes you need to cheat to succeed. I'm not really sure that's an ideal to strive toward. Also, it's portrayal of Larry Minkoff was very hurtful to his family, friends, and everyone who knew him for the kind and generous man he actually was. This film has made me watch films that claim to be "true stories" or based thereon with a much more critical eye. I hope anyone who reads this will take Cheaters with a very large grain of salt.
Kaghma
Kaghma
I attended Whitney Young H.S. and was a member of the 1st Whitney Young Academic Decathlon team in 1982; the first year this competition was nationalized. I was very interested to see this movie as I did not even realize Whitney Young had continued to win the Illinois competition.

Had it not been for the misrepresentations in this movie, I probably would have given it a much better rating.

For those outside of the Chicago area, basically Whitney Young AND Steinmetz are BOTH Chicago Public high schools. The difference is that Whitney Young is a magnet school, where you apply and get accepted on the basis of merit of your grades in elementary school, whereas Steinmetz is a district school which accepts anybody who lives in the neighborhood. Whitney Young is NOT a privileged school filled with rich kids (some of the people making comments, after seeing this movie, even had the impression that it might be private and/or suburban.) The overwhelming majority of my classmates were minorities, with nearly 70% black. As a matter of fact, there were probably more minorities at Whitney Young than Steinmetz, which is located in a white neighborhood on the north side of the city. I was disgusted by the Jeff Daniels' rant implying that rich suburbans were sending their kids into the city to attend a public high school; some line about this school being a "fortress in the city" -- The majority of kids who attend Whitney Young are from middle class and poor families. I just could not believe that Hollywood could stoop so low, to portray high achieving public inner city public school city kids as privileged snobs, for the apparent purpose of getting the audience to sympathize more with the Steinmetz kids .. to make us feel that the kids being cheated deserved to be cheated.

And Whitney Young having cheerleaders at this event .. PLEASE .. that's just insulting the intelligence of the viewers.

The reason that Whitney Young would consistently beat out other Chicago schools year after year is very simple: There is a system in place in Chicago with centralized magnet schools such as Young, Lane Tech, where all of the A students from grade schools across the city can attend and be in classes with each other ... for the purpose of having enough kids in the same place to provide advanced courses.

The professor at Steinmetz who helped his students cheat, basically tried to cheat kids at another school who worked VERY hard to earn their spot, and that stinks. This film did a very good job at desensitizing the audience about the injustice done to the kids who actually EARNED the win, in order to help add sympathy to the Steinmetz students who were NOT underprivileged, but simply chose either NOT to apply to Whitney Young, or simply did not work for the grades to get into Whitney Young in the first place.

The movie tries to make you feel sympathy for the cheaters, rather than the victims of the cheating. What a wonderful message for America.
Nalmetus
Nalmetus
This movie presents a real moral dilemna... should students who have always been thought of as losers take the chance and cheat. The teacher has the toughest decision to make- whether to let his students cheat and what to do if they get caught. Jeff Daniels plays the part well- showing how he is torn- wanting his students to get recognition and wanting to teach them right from wrong. This movie is a very good look at the moral questions we all face in life.
Kriau
Kriau
I saw this movie for the first time in 8th grade and thought it was great. Funny and entertaining, with a bit of a moral thrown in. Once I went to highschool my view changed somewhat, considering I went to (and am at) Whitney Young. It's been said here before, but the characterization is all wrong. Whitney has a majority of black students and is neither private nor in the suburbs. At the time the movie was made, Whitney was simply the best public school in the city (new rivals have cropped up in recent years), and so it developed a nucleus of extremely intelligent kids. For the most part they are not the privileged suburbanites portrayed in the movie, although there have been some families that would move into the city just to send their kids there. Anyways, it killed the moral for me, but it showed me a different fault in the Chicago Public schools, that good schools get help while smaller ones get forgotten. This was the story of a forgotten school fighting to get their name back into the light. They went about it the wrong way, but there is something to be learned from it. Or maybe not, considering the funding gap just seems to get worse.

But if I forget all of this, ignore the realities, this is still a great movie.
Keel
Keel
Sadly, for sake of moral insanity on this world, the best part of this movie is actually when the group is working on how to cheat.

I will explain this, in further detail.

When confronted with an impossible task of defeating a Senior decathlon group who nobody can, a suburb group lead by a rebel professor, having found a copy of the next decathlon exams decide to cheat.

The movie is filled with moral dilemmas, trying to balance its way out of it with real insightful ideas on how society scheme is not just "black and white" where good moral is to do it right and cheat is satanic.

The best moments in the movie are related to how the team moral values plays out and the fantastic aspect of this movie is specially dedicated on how good the team work when they are together, it is a very contradiction of terms, to see the team working so good together when they are actually trying to cheat.

Sad is that society is really preachy, society is not nice and never was, cheating is only a part of the equation and this is beautifully portrayed in the movie, for example when the guys are subjected to the worst prejudice comments from the people, when the people suspect of cheating, prejudice is far worse than cheating an exam but society doesn't see it that way, putting the team against each other in a police type interrogatory is far worse than cheating, telling lies about your friends to get what you want is also worse than cheating,but, society approves because it serves the purpose of maintaining the status-quo.

When you balance the movie out, it is clear what the message is, the education system is flawed,I for one identify much more with this cheaters than with the whole system of education. Outside of school copying and helping each other in a subject is called collaboration, inside school, this is called cheating, working as a group, helping each other inside an exam is called cheating, doing this exact same thing on a corporation is called "group-work" and as a matter of fact, it is highly well paid in corporations like Valve and Google for example.

Cheaters is a wonderful movie, really, this guys does bring a very important moral dilemma in which, sometimes, something that seems "wrong" is not so and some things that everyone knows to be right, are, VERY wrong.

An unjust competitive system of education which compels young people to take each other's eyes out for a score is NOT right, a system that encourage prejudice, that encourage absolutes, a system that values success as a win or die and not as a learning process is WRONG.

The movie ends in a graceful note, the moral values are beyond what society teaches, and "Cheaters" is a movie for the human race, it tries to put the matter into perspective and teach us what is wrong with the system and it does this with brilliant presence, nice script, very good acting and clever directing.

This is a jewel of a movie and one you should not miss.

A solid 9 out of 10.
Kale
Kale
This is a complicated movie, because you're not always sure you SHOULD be rooting for the main characters.

The film is about the apparently true story (I never heard about it) of how a teacher encouraged his students to cheat on an academic decathalon. The story was well told, but you're never really made to feel pity towards the characters. The story is told fairly and not just to be entertaining. I suppose it's a morality tale to a certain extent. But, be warned, there is a fair amount of foul language, more than I expected.

Still, a great and well done movie, and I feel will please those who are curious.
Vinainl
Vinainl
I was born and raised from a working class family in Chicago. I am also a Whitney Young alumni. Take one look at the school's website and you will learn that whites are the minority and that most people are from low SES or middle class backgrounds. This film's depiction of the Whitney Young was waaaaay off. Cheerleaders at the pep rally, matching outfits, and laptops for every student...LMAO! After viewing this film, I now understand what it's like to be on the other side of those "based on a true story" movies.

In this movie there had to be an enemy. So, Whitney Young played the role. However, the real evil is the school system. But no one wants to talk about that. What this film displayed was the selfish and lazy attitudes of the cheaters, and their need to justify their behavior by blaming the kids who worked hard and won. (If people only knew the amount of time they put into studying for AD) What we should be paying attention to is how easy the children took almost no responsibility for what they did. Instead, transferring the blame to the opposing school. Rather, the film should have told the story of how a teacher took advantage of weak-willed teenagers to boost his ego, counter his life of inadequacy. He could have been a voice for the oppressed but chose to take the easy road and let the kids down.
Burilar
Burilar
Cheaters is one of the best cable films. It's good because it makes a statement, which is that cheaters do prosper and that winning does count, contrary to what we are told throughout life. It justifies the characters' decision to cheat very nicely and it makes for an interesting story. It's not an amazing film that you can't believe they thought of, but one that's enjoyable to watch, partially because it is so plausible. Jeff Daniels plays the teacher who goes against policy and he is really convincing. The kids themselves are mostly cliches, but it doesn't matter because this isn't a movie about character, but about story, and the story is strong enough to make it a very good film.
Sardleem
Sardleem
This tv movie basically shows what cheating gets you: short lived triumph and a quick downfall. But this goes way beyond an after school special. This tv movie examines it all as a scandal and goes into great detail about why and what happened. One thing I found interesting about this movie was how people reacted to the Steinmetz High win. Even though we know they cheated, it's interesting to see how some people automatically assume they cheated because they beat out a private school in a game of intelligence. Acting is superb and the whole movie is very realistic. Thumbs up on this one.
Ttexav
Ttexav
I am not normally one to post a review unless its a movie I hate (check out my review of Titanic), but after reading some ignorant reviews posted by people who have obviously never had to live in the type of environment that these kids had to, I decided to put things into perspective. I, myself, live in an empoverished area full of minorities. Poverty + Minorities = no one giving a rats ass about you. What these kids did was far more important than a simple academic decathlon, what they did was throw a brick through the window of the owner's box.

When you pit the rich against the poor, the rich will always win. There is no competition. And where there is no competition, there is no cheating.

Anyone who believes that this film glorifies dishonesty and deceit is part of the problem.
Gribandis
Gribandis
It's 1994 in a run-down Chicago public high school. Dr. Gerard Plecki (Jeff Daniels) is the hopeful teacher organizing the Academic Decathlon team. The only student who shows up is the plucky Jolie Fitch (Jena Malone). She helps him recruit a ragtag group of diamonds in the rough. They get fifth and advance to state. However, they also see how far behind they are from the favorites. A couple of kids steal a copy of the state test and the group faces a true dilemma.

It's interesting to see the story through the eyes of the cheaters. The characters make convincing arguments but it's also obvious that they are going down the wrong path. This conflicted morality makes this a difficult watch. Jeff Daniels is the senior presence and Jena Malone makes this compelling. The production isn't the highest quality but it works for a TV movie.
Xlisiahal
Xlisiahal
I am Jolie's Mom. I HAD to write to let people know that the real event was far from dry. It was a media circus and the kids were caught up in the whole thing as were most of the adults involved. These were good kids and they did what they felt they had to do. If you have not lived their lives, please do not judge them. Thank you.
Prorahun
Prorahun
Oh my goodness, it's surprising how people totally ignorant of that situation and even the movie itself still take the time to comment. Whitney Young is no private school- it's a public school on the southwest side of Chicago that doesn't get nearly enough funding with kids that are just as poor as the 'rebels' from Steinmetz- and Steinmetz was no pseudo-Gandhi, just a bitter team that didn't dedicate the hours or resources needed to win.

What occurred wasn't some glorious 'civil disobedience,' it was a group of kids who wanted to win the competition against a school who worked harder and did more. Puh-lease, this movie is an ill-fated attempt to be 'edgy' and skew morality for it's stupider viewers.

There were no life-lessons involved, just a bunch of cheaters.
Shem
Shem
I was pleasantly surprised to discover how serious this film took the issues of both social injustice and cheating within the high school microcosm. Jeff Daniels gives an excellent performance as Dr. Plecki, the adviser and sponsor of the Academic Decathlon team at Steinmetz, a working class Chicago high school, who sees an opportunity to buck the system and gets his students to cheat in the competition, something that many of them don't need very much help to be convinced to do.

I think most viewers of this film might tend to look at the actual competition itself from a distance, so let me just say one thing from an insider's perspective since I was on my high school's Academic Decathlon team. The facts that the movie present about the unfair advantages wealthier schools have over others is completely true. There were four high schools in my school district, and two of them routinely won the local Academic Decathlon every year. Wouldn't you know it, it was the two wealthier high schools, like Whitney Young in this film. And just like in the movie, they could afford to actually offer a specific class dealing with Academic Decathlon, whereas the rest of schools had to do all their work and research on the students own private time.

Now it might sound like I'm griping and moaning and being a poor loser about just a pointless little challenge, but the fact is the Academic Decathlon isn't just a superficial status competition; it really looks good to have a victory on your resume. But the fact is, when one school wins a contest over and over again because they have an unfair advantage, it's not really a competition, it's just an excuse for elitists to stick it to underprivileged kids year after year.

I also have to commend Paul Sorvino for his wonderful role as Steinmetz principal Constantine Kiamos, the man who stands behind his Academic Decathlon team against the media backlash about the cheating. I was pleased the film makers presented Kiamos so fairly; he is not an evil man who's trying to cover up the conspiracy; he's ignorant of it (as is everyone else in the school save the Decathlon team) and is honestly trying to protect his students and his school. That aspects makes his defense of the cheaters all the more tragic. The same goes for the all the parents of the cheaters as well.

Another thing is the Whitney Young Academic Decathlon team doesn't seem to challenge Steinmetz's victory for anything as noble as "keeping it fair." Despite the fact that they were ultimately right (one of the strange moral ambiguities of this film), it seems more like they were trying to stop their "social lessers" from getting a one up on them. I think it's all together likely that even if Steinmetz hadn't cheated, Whitney Young would have protested anyway.

All in all, a brilliant movie that details a group of students who sought the wrong way to fight an unfair system, and also serves as a reminder that despite society's progress, there will always be an invisible wall that blocks the underprivileged from advancing, even in something as "insignificant" as a scholastic competition.
Fordrellador
Fordrellador
Cheaters is a reasonable to good film that never really threatens to be anything more than that, as its characters have no depth and at times it can be quite amateurish. It has an interesting story and is an engaging film however.

It's basically "Cool Runnings" all over again :). Jena Malone and Jeff Daniels are good, but the rest of the cast is weak. Apart from the poor characters, my biggest problem with the film is how obvious they made it that they were cheating. Going from winning none of the awards to winning every single one.
Ballalune
Ballalune
I've seen this movie today on DVD and i found more than i expected. It's a great movie. Not only it deals with students who cheat and a teacher who helps them, but also the differences in a society. We say every one is equal, but this movie shows us that some are more equal. I totally agree with the idea that this things would never come up if those students were in a better school in a better part of the city. Let's face it. There is still discrimination among people. I don't approve cheating, but i got no harm from cheating. In this movie, we see that we can come over this discrimination even if we have to cheat. The fact is if they had taken that boy to the team, no one could claim they cheated. So it would be possible to cheat the system.
Velellan
Velellan
Bottom line, cheating is fun, smart, and funny.

Don't try this at school.

This movie is a great film about the lives of a few students who cheat there way through school. Great acting and script is fantastic. It starts out good and ends even better. I was never bored throughout the whole time I was watching it.

Even though a lot of the cheating is a bit unreasonable at times, it still give that feel that anyone can do it.

If you are in the mood for some comedy about high school students who cheat, then watch this film.

2 thumbs up.
Jesmi
Jesmi
After watching the movie `Cheaters' I found myself slightly confused. Was I to be sad or happy with the outcome? As I was watching the filmmaker teeter totter between sides and opinions I was confused on whether or not I was to route for the cheating team or to hope they get caught. But beyond this minor point I found the film to not be all-bad. I addressed a few important issues that plague the minds of many high school students. The one that seemed to grab the most attention was the comparison of sports teams to extracurricular activities. The claim that sports teams receive almost unlimited budget while other activities are given nothing holds very true in many public school environments. I did find some moments that struck me as odd in the movie. Even though it is based on a true story, I found some of the methods of cheating to be slightly unrealistic for a national competition. I can't decide on whether or not I would recommend this film. Throughout the entire film I felt awkward about what I was viewing. But if you want to get a glimpse into a very different approach to the after school special I would recommend checking it out. If you are looking for a good movie with great characters and plot development, Try somewhere else.
Sorryyy
Sorryyy
I was surfing the movie channels and just happened to stop to watch "Cheaters" with the intention of watching it for only a few moments. I had missed the first 10 or 15 minutes of the movie, but the good acting and the moral dilemma the students were in caught my attention right away. Toward the end when the newspapers got hold of the story -- many of the journalists were lacking in morals themselves the way they were speculating about the motives of the teacher and the children. Some of the news people seemed to be more into sensationalizing the story (thereby selling more papers) than trying to get to the truth. Investigators themselves sacrificed their own INTEGRITY and MORALITY by lying to all of the students in order to coerce at least one of them into confessing. THAT was a lesson in itself...that seemed to support what the children did. As in "the end justifies the means." This was a movie well done and seemed so true to life. It took on the moral issue of cheating from many angles without getting overly bogged down philosophically. When I have cheated in the past -- life handed me some heavy lessons which I will never forget. I don't ever intend to cheat in the future -- any material gain I may experience my Soul just cannot afford to pay.
Mushicage
Mushicage
Writer/director John Stockwell displays a firm grasp of filmmaking technique. Stockwell, who also wrote Breast Men for HBO, has alot of talent, and will be sure to make it in the future. Stockwell propels the story forward through montage, and he does it the way it was ment to be done. Some of the camera shots are awesome, and its clear he wants to take you on a trip, the camera never ends up where it starts off in the shot.

Jena Malone does a good job in the movie and she will be on the up and up for sure, you may remember her from CONTACT or FOR LOVE OF THE GAME.

Jeff Daniels does a good job as the teacher, but everytime he talks I can't help but think of DUMB AND DUMBER.

The great thing about this movie is that it is not exactly what you would expect. I don't want to say too much in fear of spoilers, but the ending is a perfect example.

If your looking for a movie that will teach you that cheaters never win, and its bad to cheat, this is not the movie. This movie teaches more the lesson that it's bad to get caught, if you cheat right the sky could be the limit.

Pete's Movie Rating (out of 10): 7
Binthars
Binthars
I like movies that make me think, not just about contemporary issues, but about ourselves, as human beings. Cheaters is a great movie that does exactly that. The questions it raises are very good ones. Is cheating, even when the deck is stacked against you, wrong, or is it just against the rules? Or as the students in the movie discussed, do two wrongs make a right? Or do two wrongs make it even? Cheaters is a movie about the 1994-95 Steinmetz High School students entering the years academic decathlon, a mammoth competition featuring numerous tests, an interview, and a super quiz. The team that is fielded by their dedicated and respected teacher, Dr Plecki, immediately has three strikes against it: they have no experience, no support from most of the school staff and students, and they're up against the perennial powerhouse and cross-town rival: Whitney Young.

The Academic Decathlon, at least in Chicago and the State of Illinois, isn't really a competition, because Whitney Young has been winning for ten straight years. As Dr Plecki (played fabulously by Jeff Daniels) says "they live, breathe, and eat the decathlon...they recruit for it." So, right away, we know this is definitely a long shot because we know what they're up against. So the title is obviously self-explanatory, of course the only chance they have to win is to cheat.

Although we know this story would have never been told had they not gotten caught cheating, it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. In preparation for the regionals, we see the team really working hard. They fight tooth and nail, but just make it to the state finals, finishing in fifth place. "Jerry, keep it, you didn't know what you were up against" says the Whitney Young coach to Dr Plecki, after both bet money on their teams. We really know these words are heartbreakingly true, and we agree with Dr Plecki when he congratulates the team on a great effort ("I think you guys should be proud of yourselves"). Indeed, the team did very well, considering what they really were up against.

This is the point where things heat up, as one of the students manages to get a copy of the state test, and things really start heating up. Dr Plecki, when he gets the news, encourages the team to use the test to study, if they all agree. When they get to the State competition, using planned tricks, quick and private ways of getting signals, they win with a big improvement in their scores from their regional performance. Whitney Young believes, through suspicion, that they did indeed cheat. The logic being that it is statistically impossible for anyone to have their scores increase that dramatically in only three weeks. We, as an audience who can't help but root for the underdogs, find us hoping they don't get caught and those Whitney Young rich spoiled brats get a dose of their own medicine.

The performances by the teacher and students are fantastic. Jeff Daniels is a very underrated actor and it's refreshing to see him give such a great one here. He gives the character of Dr Plecki an excellent illustration of anger, confusion, insight, and frustration. The students, especially the one played by Jena Malone (as Jolie Fitch, who, according to the film, helped assemble the team) are just as convincing in their bonding to keep the code of silence. The lawyer for the board of education, who questions them about their cheating in one of the later scenes, said it best: "These kids may be some of the most skilled liars I've ever encountered. They looked me in the eye and lied to me. They scared me." I will not give away the ending, only that it leads to some very good arguments and the "city gripped by 'Did they or didn't they?' fever." Did Dr Plecki do right? Do you sometimes have to break the rules to change them? Would they have questioned Steinmetz if it were a rich, WASP school, as one of the Steinmetz students points out? These are all questions that the film raises, and leaves for the audience to decide.

The movie doesn't ask anyone to condone cheating, nor does it say that we should condone it. All the movie does is ask the audience to pay attention, and raise questions. It is fair to both sides. I liked the fact that one thing the movie does make clear is: right, wrong, or indifferent, our society is not fair. It doesn't say that the actions of Dr Plecki and the students are okay, but they're understandable due to the circumstances.

I would recommend this film be viewed by all students in their English classes or with their parents. I also believe very strongly that anyone who watches this will be asking themselves questions about the values, morals, and quandaries of today's society. This film is a must see for all students, educators, and parents.
Mbon
Mbon
As this movie came to an end I found myself troubled by it. The movie itself was OK - but really no better than that - and the incident upon which it's based is an interesting one from a number of perspectives. It's the story of how the Academic Decathlon Team of Steinmetz High School in Chicago cheated to win the Illinois State Championship, with the knowledge, encouragement and active participation of their teacher and coach, played by Jeff Daniels. It's a classic "ends justifying the means" kind of story. Everyone involved seemed to portray both the cheating and the cover-up as a noble act, necessitated by their belief that the competition was biased in favour of the perennial champs. Steinmetz was a racially diverse, financially challenged inner city school; their rivals a privileged "white bread" sort of school. To everyone involved in the scam this apparently justified the dishonesty.

That's what I found troubling here. There was never a moment of contrition; never a point when anyone directly involved said simply "this was wrong." Even the kid who finally blew the whistle did so only out of jealousy - because he wasn't getting to share in the limelight of winning. In the end, everyone involved (teacher and students) seemed to do just fine with few serious consequences (the teacher lost his job but ended up opening his own business while most of the students seem to have successfully gone on to university, their experience with the scam becoming an apparently valuable piece of life experience) which perhaps explains one of the closing captions: 80% of high school students admitted to cheating, while 50% thought cheating was OK. I wonder what that portends for the future? Then at the end we're told that one of the School Board officials who condemned cheating was sent to jail later the same year for tax evasion. The apparent message: everyone does it in their own way.

Frankly, it's not a great movie, but it is a troubling one. 5/10