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Slam tells the story of Ray Joshua, an original, gifted young MC trapped in a war-zone housing project known as Dodge City. Unable to find a job, Ray copes with the despair and poverty of his neighborhood by using his wits and verbal talent. Written by
Flawed but powerful film nicely different from the usual `black youth' movies
Ray Joshua is a rhymer who survives on the streets of Washington by dealing drugs. When the leader of his crew is killed right in front of him he is arrested for possession and sent to jail until the trial. In jail he finds that the world is as violent inside as out and that his prison is in his mind and not the real world. Inside he uses his skills to stop violence and meets Lauren Bell who sees potential in Ray and encourages him to better his situation and get out of his cycle.
I am a major fan of HBO's Oz and one of the more interesting actors on there is a guy called muMs who does beat poetry. When I saw Slam coming on it reminded me of him and I thought I'd watch it. I like hip-hop which has strong lyrics so it's a little like that, although I do dislike the more pretentious side of street poetry so I could have gone either way on this. Happily I really liked it on the whole. The film is energetic and doesn't just focus on `using the gifts to get you outta da hood' type message that I expected it to. Far from it. Instead it looks at the prison Ray is in both inside and out on the street and how he needs to get out of that. I was surprised but impressed by the writer/actor's message of accepting punishment for what you've done wrong but then make yourself free after your time is done.
The film isn't perfect and the director does like to have tonnes of sunsets and stuff in his films which take away from the real feel to it. Likewise Ray is written far too soft. Rather than focus on a youth is really is trapped in a bad situation and engrained in it, the film makes Ray very soft. He is `only carrying a few grammes' of stuff, he is kind to kids and doesn't see the need to take sides in prison. The film would have been better if the character had been less `good' at the start.
However knowing a little about how it was made, made me like the film more and respect it. It was made in 9 days. The rough scene structure was laid out for each scene, but it was all improvised rather than run off a word for word script. Knowing this I was impressed by how well it all worked and how good it looked. Williams is really good as Ray and carries the beat and the emotion really well. His skills are good and when he feels trapped and wronged you believe him. He has a good chemistry with Sohn, even if her character is a little too clean looking for the past she rages against. The support cast are all pretty good save a few gangsta roles. Those in prison are believable and the poets/rappers are all pretty tight except a few pretentious ones in the show at the end of the film.
As a ghetto movie this is well above the norm and delivers a brutally honest message for black youth to accept what they are doing, bare the consequences but then to move on with their lives. This is refreshing and does more than a lot of the black comedies that we see a lot of rappers doing now this film may help. Even if you're not into rap or beat poetry this film has enough power in it to keep you watching.
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