Carley (Brittany Snow) is a sheltered college senior who’s torn between roaming around exploring the country after getting her degree and going on to law school primarily to please her parents. She’s caught up in an animated conversation about the future with her best friend, Lena (Christian Serratos), who is, in turn, concerned about her boyfriend and about making a smooth transition from campus to the real world.
The carefree coeds drive around Los Angeles, blissfully unaware that their world is on the verge of suddenly colliding with that of a couple of tough teenagers from the other side of the tracks. One, Dre (Evan Ross), is fast approaching a milestone of his own, having just ordered a cap-and-gown for his impending high school graduation. He hopes to be one of the few kids from his block to overcome the odds and actually make it out of the ghetto.
Sadly, the same can’t be said about his younger cousin, Kevin (Jonathan Michael Trautmann), a dropout desperate to be embraced by the local gang. To prove himself worthy, he impulsively decides to carjack Carley and Lena’s car at gunpoint.
Dre reluctantly joins Kevin in this felonious endeavor, more to talk some sense into him than as an accomplice, only to have grand theft auto escalate to kidnapping and attempted murder when his trigger-happy cuz shoots a resistant Lena in the head. With all four subsequently cooped-up together in the car, what ensues is a harrowing ordeal marked by mutual misunderstandings borne of a culture clash.
Like a claustrophobic variation of the Oscar-winning Best Picture “Crash,” “96 Minutes” is a serendipitous slice-of-life tale unfolding in L.A. over the course of one very eventful evening. The compelling crime drama marks the impressive writing and directorial debut of Aimee Lagos, who exhibits quite a knack for both character-development and for generating edge of your seat urgency.
Listen, whenever vapid Valley girls cross paths with wanton boys ‘n the hood, you know something’s gotta give. And when the dust settles, it ain’t going to look pretty.