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Powder is a 1995 American fantasy drama film, written and directed by Victor Salva and starring Sean Patrick Flanery in the titular role, with Jeff Goldblum, Mary Steenburgen, Bradford Tatum and Lance Henriksen in supporting roles.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Victor Salva|
|Produced by||Roger Birnbaum|
|Written by||Victor Salva|
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Edited by||Dennis M. Hill|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$30.9 million|
The film is about Jeremy "Powder" Reed, who has an incredible intellect, as well as telepathy and paranormal powers. It questions the limits of the human mind and body while also displaying society's capacity for cruelty, and raises hope that humanity will advance to a state of better understanding. Its filming locations were around suburbs of Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, Texas.
The film was a financial success, but critical reviews were mixed and the film's release dogged with controversy due to Salva's prior conviction for child sex abuse.
Jeremy "Powder" Reed (Sean Patrick Flanery) is a young albino man who has incredible intellect and is able to sense the thoughts of the people around him. Jeremy's brain possesses a powerful electromagnetic charge, which causes electrical objects to function abnormally when he is around them, particularly when he becomes emotional. The electromagnetic charge also prevents hair from growing on his body.
Jeremy's mother was struck by lightning while pregnant with him; she died shortly after the strike, but Jeremy survived. His father disowned him shortly after his premature birth, and he was raised by his grandparents. Jeremy lived in the basement and worked on their farm, never leaving their property and learning everything he knew from books. He is taken from his home when his grandfather is found dead of natural causes. Jessie Caldwell (Mary Steenburgen), a child services psychologist, takes him to a boys' home because he is now effectively a ward of the state.
Jessie enrolls him in high school, where Jeremy meets physics teacher Donald Ripley (Jeff Goldblum). Donald finds out that Jeremy has supernatural powers as well as the highest IQ in history. While his abilities mark him as special, they also make him an outcast.
On a hunting trip with his schoolmates, Jeremy is threatened with a gun by John Box (Bradford Tatum), an aggressive student who views him as a freak. Before John can fire, a gun goes off in the distance, and everyone rushes to see that Harley Duncan (Brandon Smith), a Sheriff's deputy, has shot a doe. Anguished by the animal's death, Jeremy touches the deer and Harley, inducing in Harley what the students assume is a seizure. Harley admits that Jeremy had actually caused him to feel the pain and fear of the dying deer. Because of the experience, Harley removes all of his guns from his house, although Sheriff Doug Barnum (Lance Henriksen) allows him to remain as a sheriff's deputy without a sidearm.
Doug enlists Jeremy to help speak to his dying wife through telepathy. Through Jeremy, the sheriff learns that his wife clings onto life because she didn't want to leave without her wedding ring on her finger and without him reconciling with his estranged son, Steven. She tells him that Steven found the ring and that it has been sitting in a silver box on her nightstand the entire time. Doug then places the ring on his wife's finger and reconciles with Steven, letting his wife die peacefully.
Jeremy meets Lindsey Kelloway (Missy Crider), a romantic interest, but their relationship is broken by Lindsey's father. Before the interruption, he tells Lindsey that he can see the truth about people: that they are scared and feel disconnected from the rest of the world but in truth are all connected to everything that exists.
Jeremy goes back to the juvenile facility and packs away his belongings, planning to run away to his farm. He pauses in the gym to stare at a male student washing, noticing the latter's luxurious head of hair as well as body hair which he himself lacks, and is caught at it by John Box, who accuses him of homosexuality. John steals Jeremy's hat and taunts him, but Jeremy reveals that John's words mimic what his stepfather said before beating him when he was 12, infuriating him. John and the other boys humiliate Jeremy, stripping him naked and taunting him. His powers begin to manifest by pulling at their metal buttons and any piercings. Eventually, a large spherical electromagnetic pulse erupts throwing Jeremy into a mud puddle and everyone else to the ground. John is found still, with his heart stopped. Jeremy uses an electric shock to revive him.
Jeremy returns to the farm where he grew up, now in probate with the bank, and finds that all of his possessions have been removed. He is joined by Jessie, Donald, and Doug, who persuade Jeremy to come with them to find a place where he will not be feared and misunderstood. Instead, he runs into a field where a lightning bolt strikes him, and he disappears in a blinding flash of light. The electrical jolt hits Jessie, Donald, Doug, and Harley.
- Sean Patrick Flanery as Jeremy 'Powder' Reed
- Mary Steenburgen as Jessie Caldwell
- Lance Henriksen as Sheriff Doug Barnum
- Jeff Goldblum as Donald Ripley
- Brandon Smith as Deputy Harley Duncan
- Bradford Tatum as John Box
- Susan Tyrrell as Maxine
- Melissa Lahlitah Crider as Lindsey Kelloway (as Missy Crider)
- Ray Wise as Dr. Aaron Stripler
- Esteban Powell as Mitch
- Reed Frerichs as Skye
- Chad Cox as Zane
- Joe Marchman as Brennan
- Phil Hayes as Greg Reed (as Phillip Maurice Hayes)
- Danette McMahon as Emma Barnum
- Barry Berfield as Paramedic #1
Caryn James of The New York Times described the film as "lethally dull" with Goldblum's dry humor offering the only tolerable moments in the film. "This intensely self-important film has no idea how absurd and unconvincing it is."
Leonard Maltin wrote in his Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide: "Earnest, but doesn't add up to much."
Roger Ebert gave the film 2 stars out of a possible 4. He criticized numerous plot holes as well as Flanery's makeup, which resembled a mime more than an albino. He wrote: "'Powder' has all of the elements of a successful fantasy, and none of the insights. It's a movie where intriguing ideas lie there on the screen, jumbled and unrealized. It leads up to bathos, not pathos, because not enough attention was paid to the underlying truth of the characters. They're all just pawns for the plot gimmicks."
The film's production by Disney resulted in a controversy over the choice of writer-director Victor Salva, who had been convicted of molesting a 12-year-old child actor during the production of his previous film, Clownhouse (1988). He was sentenced to three years imprisonment and released after 15 months. Disney officials reported that they learned of Salva's crime only after production of Powder had begun, and stressed that there were no minors on the set for the film. When Powder was released, the victim, Nathan Forrest Winters, came forward again in an attempt to get others to boycott the film in protest at Disney's hiring Salva.
In a 2015 appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience, comedian Barry Crimmins criticized the plot of Powder for implying that a child has power over an adult as representing a veiled or allegorical defense of Salva's history as a sex offender.
- "Powder". Filmtracks.com. 3 June 1998. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
- James, Caryn (October 27, 1995). "Powder (1995)". The New York Times. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
- Ebert, Roger. "Powder Movie Review & Film Summary (1995) - Roger Ebert". www.rogerebert.com.
- Welkos, Robert (25 October 1995). "Disney Movie's Director a Convicted Child Molester: Hollywood: He says, 'I paid for my mistakes dearly', but victim of incident several years ago urges boycott of 'Powder'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
- Infamy that has no end, Chicago Tribune, October 29, 1995
- Victim speaks out against molester, TimesDaily, October 25, 1995
- Joe Rogan interviews Barry Crimmins & Bobcat Goldthwait, Joe Rogan, August 6, 2015