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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

The Cinema of Abel Ferrara: Our Christmas.

8/10
Author: Miyagis_Sweaty_wifebeater (sirjosephu@aol.com) from Sacramento, CA
15 August 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Our Christmas (2001) was a highly underrated film from street level director Abel Ferrara. Instead of making a sell-out movie like all of the other directors do, Ferrara sticks to his guns and makes the kind of films that he wants to do. Loosely based upon a true story, Ferrara takes this simple tale about a innocent family living a double life and makes it into a compelling urban character driven drama that's filled with flesh and bone people instead of paper cut-outs.

An young family that lives the good life has a shameful secret. They like to deal dope on the side to support their high class living. The movie takes place during the late 80's to the early 90's. Police corruption in New York City was at a all time high. So many of the cops were on the take. One group of cops didn't like the couple and their crew squeezing them out of the heroin business. Ice-T co-stars as an officer who tries to convince the wife (Drea Matteo) to leave the drug trade and do whatever it takes to keep Hubby away from it as well. Not convinced, they kidnap him and the wife has 24 hours to come up with a large sum of money to obtain his release.

After receiving a reality check from Ice-T, Drea must come face with the fact that she has wasted her life and is better than the typical dope slinger. When Hubby is released retribution is in order. The crooked cops are all apprehended and the loser responsible for the entire mess is done away with. But really, are their any lessons to be learned by all of the main characters? Abel Ferrara leaves all of the questions open ended. He makes you think about what happened to everyone. This is not a violent soap opera filled with nonsensical gun play. It's a street level drama that pulls no punches and not everyone will appreciate it.

Highly recommended.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Neat glance at the drug world

Author: Glenn Andreiev (gandreiev@aol.com) from Huntington, NY
9 February 2004

An un-named upscale New York couple (BRONX TALE's Lillo Brancato and SOPRANOS regular Drea de Matteo) are loving parents, who by day, go Christmas shopping for their beloved little girl, Lisa (Lisa Valens). At night, they don street clothes, head for the unfriendly reaches of the Bronx to deal in heroine with dangerous co-workers and drug rivals. The wife learns from a kidnapper (Ice-T) that her husband has been taken. The ransom is due within an almost impossible time limit. ‘R XMAS is free of the drug-movie cliches. Gunplay is at a bare minimum (The only bullet recipient in 'R XMAS is a basketball!) There are no expected car chases (When the wife drives across town for ransom money, she isn't running red lights and knocking over fruit stands, like every rescuer in most other genre film) ‘R XMAS is filled with insight, a peek into the inner workings of drug neighborhoods highlighted with wall graffiti.

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9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

The perfect xmas movie for modern America

10/10
Author: jim-314 from Lubbock, TX
15 December 2002

Ferrara does not know how to make an uninteresting movie. Whatever you think of the content of his films, everything he does is a stylish, riveting exercise in visual story telling. This movie is no exception. There's surprisingly little dialogue, but what there is sings with a sense of modern city life. The aural and visual atmosphere of New York City, both upscale and downscale, is rich and multi-layered, and the characters seem like people you've seen on the street, or in stores, or in clubs, many many times. I don't know how "real" the action of this movie might be, but it seems as real and believable to me as anything I've seen on screen in a good long while. This is the perfect holiday movie for 21st century America, and a near-ideal expression of the meaning of modern Christmas.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Character studies and drugs related storyline

7/10
Author: Chris_Docker from United Kingdom
13 May 2002

(7/10) Abel Ferrara directs a powerful drama where law enforcement and drug dealers come together with emotional force. The central character is an "honest" drug dealer, kind to his family, helping the community out, oblivious to the fact that his decent lifestyle conflicts with the fact that drugs do a lot of damage (to put it mildly). A nice add-on to "Traffic", though even less satisfying as a narrative. Saw it at the Buenos Aires international film festival (2002) and queuing so long for a ticket perhaps made me more inclined to rate it highly as well.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Quotidian Dealers vs. Frank White's New Day

7/10
Author: Kordermamet23 from Atlanta, GA
23 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

RXmas--which I have heard pronounced as R Christmas--is an intriguing entry in Ferrara's career. I have to admit, I much prefer the hyperslick megaviolent insanity of King of New York and the scuzzy Method Acting delirium of movies like Bad Lieutenant, Dangerous Game, and The Funeral, and the drab experimentalism of New Rose Hotel and The Addiction to this exercise in extreme realism. But I admired and respected the achievement. Drea Dematteo is very powerful, very vulnerable, very real. Her desire to rescue her husband from the clutches of mysterious kidnappers is fascinating to watch. Ice-T, who gets so little respect as an actor and has been condemned these days to Law and Order spinoffs and Leprachaun sequels, is tight, mean, scary, and inspirational. Lillo Brancato gives a very truthful performance as the husband. He doesn't play it as a moronic machofried action hero: he's just a dad, a workaday stiff, trying to provide for his family in the best way he knows how. RXmas is seemingly the beginning of a new cycle of films, presumably dealing with New York City and the business of drug dealing. Somehow, I doubt this new cycle will ever be brought to fruition. RXmas was yet another megaflop/now you see it now you don'ter from Ferrara. Too bad. American cinema could use some more of his scuzz, his hyperslick insanity, his quotidian realism. I have this theory that most people who see his movies think he's European (Italian, possibly French). He is, however, one of the great American filmmakers. Hopefully, more of this cycle will be revealed.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

not bad at all

Author: deafskorpianking
13 March 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

possible spoiler.... i thought this was a great movie and i wasn't surprised that this was a true story. it's about a family who are drug dealers at night but during the day they seem to be normal loving parents. the plot is somewhat thin but that don't really matter in this movie, it just tends to be boring at one point or another. a few people kidnap the father and the wife go frantic but she especially is very surprised when she findz out who the kidnappers are. so was i, i never expected them to be that kind of people. it's a twist. :)

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Good Film

7/10
Author: pig_71 from Cowpens, SC
22 November 2002

Abel Ferrara is a great filmmaker, hands down. His earlier works are more violent and mean but great films don't always have to be nice. His later works are toned down but the story and characters are carrying the movie nd no exception to this is his R'Xmas. Well acted and shot great. The shots are interesting and worth watching the film alone simply because the camera movements are helping to tell the story when the characters are not talking. Good flick. ***1/2 out of *****

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Mobius Trip

8/10
Author: tieman64 from United Kingdom
11 November 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"This is what you get for making house calls." - Bill Hartford (Eyes Wide Shut)

Abel Ferrara directs "R Xmas". Ignored upon release in the West, the film would top several "best of the year" polls in France, and would be heavily praised by several Cahiers Du Cinema writers.

The plot? Dreo de Matteo and Lillo Brancato play a Latino husband and wife team living in New York City. They lead a double life, alternating between their upscale Manhattan apartment (eerily similar to the Hartford's apartment in "Eyes Wide Shut"; did Kubrick's location scouts photocopy a similar place?), and a run-down inner city rent-a-room, where they cut, wrap and push cocaine. Like "Eyes Wide Shut", these two apartments - or halves of the couple's life - occupy the same Mobius Strip. The couple wine and dine and fraternise with sophistos on one hand, but slum it and hang out with street urchins, hoodlums and gangsters on the other. They push to have the best toys, gifts and Ivy League education for their young daughter, but must engage in all manners of debauchery to maintain her sanitised life. Privilege, then, is seen to come at a cost.

Much of the film contrasts the couple's provincial dialects and street slang with their pretence at having escaped the streets. They're not social climbers, or even social pretenders, so much as agents shuttlecocking back and forth between poverty and yuppie money. The film's tone does the same, sleazy and vulgar on one hand, but tender and poignant on the other. Matteo and Brancato, a couple of unconventional, riveting and well cast actors, themselves exude warmth, selflessly concerned about their little family unit, even as they spew obscenities and cut coke.

Like "Eyes Wide Shut", Christmas is the setting. Drug trading appears to be qualitatively no different from any other business, transactions are the raison d'etre of all interactions and the film delights in clashing its wholesome festive ambiance with B movie grit. The point's not that our lead couple lead a "double life", but that everything has a repugnant underside (hence the "R Xmas" slang title - the X rated, the shameful), the two "sides" of the Mobius Strip inextricable, day facilitating night and vice versa. Shades of Lynch ("Inland Empire", "Mulholland Drive", "Lost Highway"), Cronenberg ("Existenz", "A History of Violence", "Eastern Promises"), Pasolini ("Salo"?), Godard ("Weekend" et al) and Kubrick (everything post "Clockwork").

The "Eyes Wide Shut" parallels continue. Ferrara's film, like Kubrick's, is wholly preoccupied with costs. Ferrara mirrors the "designed scarcity" of consumer goods (trendy dolls, toys, goods) with the couple's in-house drug market. And just as the couple's product ruins the lives of those on the streets, so to does this outside violence leak back into their wannabe-bourgeois lives. It's not that the couple can't cut themselves off from the streets – their aim - but that they're not wealthy enough yet to do so. Their daughter will, though, mother and father's violence like a perverse Christmas gift to her. She's destined for cosy isolation.

The film is somewhat autobiographical; Ferrara was a notorious crack-head for over a decade. Unlike Kubrick, though, he focuses on a smaller slice of the social strata: the lower and wannabe-bourgeois classes. The film's less interested in power as a a kind of established social framework than it is in B movie hysteria, which plays to Ferrara's strengths.

Stylistically the film differs from early Ferrara. In interviews Ferrara states that its bizarre lighting and camera work was an unintentional result or byproduct of the film's small budget and rushed shoot, which necessitated the use of simple long shots, less coverage than usual and an almost documentary look. Ferrara also chooses to shoot bilingual dialogue (Spanish presented without subtitles) and refuses to juice up his film's casual tempo with thriller conventions. The film manages the rare task of neither condemning the drug trade or romanticising/poeticizing it, thanks largely to Matteo and Brancato. Their characters are pragmatic, vulgarly earnest, but there is sentimentality in their Christmas dream to acquire a doll for their daughter. Hard work, love, family, sacrifice and other treacly all-American values are espoused, but the film undermines even as it evokes the "Christmas spirit".

As with all of Ferrara's films, the best moments are those in which nothing much happens: Matteo and Brancato looking at each other, driving in silence, distant shots of powder pushers pushing product or daughters walking with their fathers. What's good about "R Xmas", and what typically separates late Ferrara from early Ferrara, is that almost the entire film is similarly underplayed. "R Xmas" also features some moody nighttime and low-light photography, though such an aesthetic is beginning to be supplanted by the ether-real of digital cameras. The film features another horrendous performance by Ice-T.

Some have criticised the film for analogising the commercialisation of illegal drugs and Christmas. The idea is that parallels between consumerism/materialism and cocaine dealing are trite, and that while depicting the narcotics trade as merely another capitalist avenue for enrichment is not necessarily "not correct", it is also not true that "trade" is inherently damaging. This is a whole other issue – the underside of liberal democracy and "money" itself (you can drag simple physics/biology into this as well: money is essentially energy, subject to entropy and thermodynamic laws) - and one which strikes to the core of how we run and misunderstand our own lives and actions, but Ferrara is uninterested, and is more a madcap neo-neo-Realist than didactic filmmaker.

The film begins and ends with text crawls about NYC mayors David Dinkins and Rudolph Giuliani, epitomising Manhattan's evolution from seductive gutter to Disneyfied, gentrified tourist attraction. Matteo and Brancato are of the former; they're daughter's Mickey Mouse Club through and through.

8.5/10 – See Olivier Assayas' "Demonlover", "Boarding Gate" and "Summer Hours". Worth two viewings.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

What a funky flick!

Author: Jennifer McCutchan from Melbourne, Australia
6 February 2002

I saw this at the Melbourne Film Festival in 2001, and thought it was cool, funky and sexy. I LOVED Ice-T in his role, and was blown away by the plot, and how the characters slid so smoothly from their supposedly happy domestic family life into a drug-dealing couple once their daughter was put to bed. I hope it gets major release in Australia before too long!

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Ferrara, please, direct a Harry Potter sequel

7/10
Author: Cristiano-A from Lisbon, Portugal
20 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The movie is a good example of the independent American cinema. And on the same time it's a Christmas tale, a little different from the usual stuff. It's Christmas! A walk on the Central Park, some last minute shopping and a trip to the tree on the Rockfeller Center. A family, like so many others, prepares to celebrate Christmas. It's a Latin family, of immigrants or sons of immigrants, that came to America searching for a better life. But to achieve the American dream only one occupation is offered to them: the drugs traffic. They do the drug deal as any other family business: on a big glass table, the husband cuts and blends the cocaine and fills the small bags. The uncle seals the bags while another relative puts the mark. But another part of the business happens on the streets and there, the gangs rule. When the husband is kidnapped the wife's life stars to spin around. Abel Ferrara is the author of provocative films like Bad Lieutenant or Driller Killer. And in this film he tries to provoke us once more. 'R Xmas is a kind of moral tale, without a final lesson, but suggesting we think about this little story. Yes, because it doesn't happen much in this movie. We are presented to the daily life of a family, his way of life is exposed to us and then, suddenly, everything is threatened by a sudden and brutal happening: the husband is kidnapped. In the end, he is saved, but the situation is by no means defined. The two leading actors do a sound performance. Drea de Matteo and Lillo Brancato are very convincing in their roles of caring parents and on the same time, drug dealers. Ice-T is also good, in a character who is at the same time, menacing and moral. It's a pity that in the end, the moral message (keep the drugs out of the streets)is hardly related to a dirty cop. In conclusion, it's a good movie, but not an excellent one. Ferrara builds a fiction about the presence of evil and the possibility or will of redemption. Another chapter in his saga of catholic dispair. We hope he can take a project which allows him to develop more of his themes or renew his career by a radical change of course. As a Portuguese critic said, he may direct a sequel of Harry Potter, in which Harry could be tormented by images of Christ, who lead him to question himself about the practice of magic and the obedience to the Bible, for example.

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