George Gittoes is a well-known Australian painter and filmmaker. A lot of his painting is related to war and so to are his films. Rampage started when the director was in Iraq Making the documentary Soundtrack To War (2005). He met Elliot Lovett, a young African American soldier who was a rap artist. Elliot was one of an number of people focused on in Soundtrack To War (2005) but the twenty something rapper told Gittoes that Miami is "more dangerous than the streets of Baghdad".
In Rampage (2006), George Gittoes is introduced to Elliot's hometown of Brown Sub in Miami and meets all the family and friends who live in the eye of the storm. Elliot has two younger brothers Marcus and Denzell. Almost everyone creates hip-hop in this documentary, not recorded in a studio but off the cuff when hanging out together. Some of this music would be written and much of it "freestyle" or improvised. It is simply a part of their lives.
The film starts quite joyously. The first third simply follows the young people hanging out and having fun. This part of the film really captures a wonderful spirit in the young people of this film. Gittoes follows this group while standing out as an older, white outsider with a camera but he does his best to fit in. Gittoes might be from another world to these African American youth but he is allowed inside to capture its essence. The director shows little pretension and I believe this is why the film successfully portrays the characters and situation. He is just strait up about what he wants to do which is make the documentary.
During the film, tragedy strikes. Somebody is shot and this changes everything. I will not add any further to this and will just let you watch the film.
Denzell is the younger brother and a very promising hip-hop artist. He is 14 years old and is rapping about guns and death like older rappers 50 cent and Snoop Dog. He journeys to all the top record companies with his stories and rhymes. His talent is undeniable but his graphic subject matter and course language is questioned because of his youth. In the offices of some of the biggest hip-hop producers, Denzell is described as gifted and the future of rap. Despite all his violent lyrics based on where he comes from it becomes a challenge to get signed by the record labels.
What the documentary achieves is a raw look at a part of America we usually only see on COPS or in a Hollywood version. There is obvious negativity in these ganglands but Rampage shows us the positive side, which is a fertile place of creativity and culture. Rap music proves to be enmeshed in the lives of these young people. Rampage shows us where this music comes from. For a white Australian like my friends and me it is fascinating and valuable to see the real thing because our musical culture is now heavily influenced by the commercial rap, R&B genres.
Structurally the film is not perfect. The film gets to a point where it is unable to go anywhere further. This is partly due to the realistic and honest style refusing to create an artificial peek or arc. Perhaps the film peeks earlier than one would like but the result is still a very raw entertaining experience. This is at times a wonderful window into a family that we usually only see a one sided view of. It is also access to the world of Brown Sub with gold teeth, guns, shotgun scars and the biggest wheels I have ever seen on a car! The music is delivered with a strong attitude. If you like music see this film. If you like 8 Mile or films about hip-hop you should see the real thing. I compare this film to the excellent rap doco Freestyle (2000), which is a detailed overview of the art of freestyling. Rampage (2006) is not an overview having a clear focus on a particular family of rap artists and this is the films strength.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?