Hot Docs Review: 12 O’Clock Boys

Pug spends years trying to join a Baltimore dirt bike group in "12 O'Clock Boys"

Pug is a young boy living in Baltimore with his mother and siblings, dreaming of the day he can join the 12 O’Clock Boys. They’re a group of dirt bike riders who travel through the streets of Baltimore, clashing with police and ignoring the fact that what they’re doing is illegal. The film follows Pug over the course of three years as he slowly becomes a part of this dirt bike culture, changing his behaviour while his mother struggles to deal with him.

12 O’Clock Boys walks a fine line between inspiring and infuriating. The recklessness of this gang of dirt bike riders is puzzling, especially when you consider the options available to them to do what they love in a lawful, and safe, manner. The idea is presented that these young men are avoiding problems like gangs, and don’t participate in anything violent, which is true to an extent. Their activities still endanger the lives of people around them, as well as themselves, and their attitude towards the police and the public are no different than any other gang member.

It’s fascinating to watch the slow progression of Pug from stubborn and naive, to disrespectful and dangerous, although it will leave many viewers feeling angry. We’re given no answers as to why Pug’s mother would allow this, or why the city doesn’t try to offer the riders a safe alternative. This is their life, and it’s unfortunate that they feel there’s nothing else for them.

Is 12 O’Clock Boys Essential Hot Docs Viewing?

Definitely a must see at the festival. Documentary should ignite passion in a viewer, and it’s impossible not to become emotionally involved in Pug’s journey, whether it’s positive or negative.

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Raised on a healthy diet of Star Wars and every horror film on a video store shelf, Will has been watching movies since before he was able to talk. Inspired by an ever growing passion for film, and the occasional mind control experiment, Will began writing film review on his personal blog, The Film Reel. When the mind control experiments actually worked, he was able to secure a position with Toronto Film Scene. He now waits patiently in the TFS basement for October to come every year, when his love for horror films finally pays off.

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