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12 O’Clock Boys

There’s a strange narrative conflict at the heart of 12 O’Clock Boys. On one hand, the broader story of Baltimore’s brand of impoverished urban escapism through reckless dirt bike riding probably could have been told well enough in a short film. The local news clips and interviews with riders get pretty repetitive after awhile. On the other hand, following its charismatic protagonist, Pug, through three of his formative years (ages 12–15) offers a valuable glimpse into how kids are shaped by the challenges they face growing up in the ghetto, which justifies 12 O’Clock Boys’ feature length. Still, its fly-on-the-wall style refuses to draw any conclusions and rarely offers supporting context. There’s a commendable authenticity to that lack of filter, but it often comes at the expense of a bigger picture.