When we first meet 13-year-old Jacob in Kat Candler’s Hellion, he’s hopping on his motorbike and furiously speeding away. In the next scene, he’s demolishing a vehicle in the parking lot of a high school football game as heavy-metal guitars scream. He bashes in the windshield with a bat as his friends decorate the doors with red spray paint. Jacob even seems to get one last shot in after he realizes that a few angry adults have spotted them.
These are deeply angry young men, but Jacob is more nuanced than a rage monster thanks to the stunning breakout performance of Josh Wiggins. As the eldest brother of a Southeast Texas family in turmoil — mom’s dead, dad (played with stoic gruffness by Aaron Paul) is basically a shell — the now 15-year-old Texas native is a revelation, reminiscent of a teenage Leonardo DiCaprio in his breakout role in 1993’s This Boy’s Life. With his intense brow, angular face and piercing eyes, he even kind of resembles DiCaprio physically. “I get that… sometimes,” Wiggins laughs.
Unlike Leo, though, Wiggins was discovered on YouTube.