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With this being the FIRST movie review i've done, i couldn't have
picked a harder movie to summarize.. If you've seen Buddy Giovinazzo's
1986 street slime suicide epic "Combat Shock", than you'll know what to
expect.. A perfectly made film thats downbeat and depressing, a Drama
that can pass for horror And characters that you are supposed to hate,
but can't.. The only difference here is that instead of the gritty 80's
look this film has a nice pop-polished feel (and more characters to
feel bad for)
The movie basically follows four groups of characters in their day to day struggles in a drug/hooker infested neighborhood (Not unlike Hollywood). There's Marybeth (Kerry Washington) and Benny (Desmond Harrington) who roam the streets looking for johns. Marybeth is a Transsexual who's trying to save money for her sex change by giving head to old filthy tricks and at the same time supporting her loser boyfriends (bennys) drug habit. Benny's trade is a burglar, but his drug problem and age has made it difficult to pull anything off without F**king it up. Then There's Willy (Ridge Canipe) A pre-teen who, like all kids in these neighborhoods has no future. He wakes up to cockroachs running across his face, hangs out with the Junkie outside his welfare building (Brandon Routh), Has a crush on a local hooker named "Melody" (Elena Franklin) who's roughly the same age as he is.. He also has to watch after his little sister while his Mom (Illeana Douglas) and her abusive boyfriend smoke rock.. Romeo (Evan Ross) is the neighborhood punk who roams the streets terrorizing people, extorting and brutally beating down the elderly for their welfare checks, raping, robbing, killing.. People may think his character is an exaggeration of a street punk, but there are HUNDREDS of "Romeos" in every city.. The kids that were number one on the football team 2 years ago, now sell crack and aspire to live out the "Scarface" life. Then There's the people in the neighborhood who are trying to make a life for themselves, but they are too naive to realise that it will NEVER happen.. Manny (Victor Rasuk) works two jobs.. A Day job at the local Liquor Store and a Security job at the welfare apartments (were Willy Resides). He and his wife Concetta (Shannyn Sossamon) live in squalor and have a newborn son who NEVER STOPS CRYING (Kinda reminiscent of Frankies 'Agent Orange" Baby in "Combat Shock"). Of all the people in the neighborhood (that we see) he is the only one trying to make a better life for himself and his family, but in the end not even THREE jobs can help. (you just have to LEAVE!!)
Of the four of us that went to the film i think i was the only one who really loved it.. My Girlfriend (who's favorite film is "Bloodsucking Freaks")said that it was too dark. My two other friends liked it, and one friend actually sparked his stem about half way through.. The truth is, we all grew up in a neighborhood just like the one shown in the film. Its hard to watch "Hollywood" almost Glorify and Exploit this reality for rich snobby dick heads to watch and try to analyze.. (Its basically Hollywood Exploiting ITSELF!) I've been in willy's shoes and the reality is that no matter how innocent he seems in the film, eventually he will grow up to be a junkie, thief or dealer (or all three) Some people finally realise that it would be easier to just LEAVE the neighborhood and move to the suburbs. You'd still have to struggle, BUT after everything you've already dealt with, moving would be a walk in the park. HOPEFULLY some Crackheads out there will see this film and realise that they should NEVER have kids! Maybe they will see that this life is a vicious cycle that they will pass on to their kids and they'll grow up to be our future addicts and hookers OR WORSE, They'll become the future "Romeos". Too many kids in the city end up like him. In a neighborhood full of druggies you realise that the only REAL job out there is to actually supply these drugs to these losers. When your Mom and Dad cant pay the rent and your able to hustle $1000 A DAY selling crack and heroin you feel like a success. Thats the trap. Only 1 in 10 will be able to stay off the drugs they sell, and only 1 in 10 will save that money and move to Riverside and get a job selling DVD's and VHS tapes on Amazon :) Anyways, this is my first movie review to a movie that still doesn't have a review. (now i'll try to sound like everyone else) The movie had GREAT direction, excellent acting from an excellent ensemble cast and it will give you a realistic look into the streets! I heard somebody say this film was like "Short Cuts on Drugs". That sums it up nice, except there isn't some stupid earthquake. Unlike "Short Cuts" this movie has a realistic ending. Good job Buddy G!! Hopefully you'll adapt some of your other books to film. Then you'll have my SECOND review ever!
Life is Hot in Cracktown (2009) is a movie based upon a collection of
short stories written by the director Buddy Giovinazzo. The film
follows four story lines: a man who works two jobs trying to support
his family and move out of the inner city, a brother and sister who try
to survive in a roach infested hotel, a pre-op transsexual who works
the streets to make ends meet and a young hoodlum who lives an empty
life with no future to look forward to. They are just some of the
faceless people who try to make a life inside a poverty stricken
ghetto. even though they have a bleak present, something inside of
these people drives them to try and look for a way out of there lives
and look for a brighter future.
I really enjoyed this movie. Most of the films I see about the inner city are full of cartoonish and stereotypical characters that you don;t care about. The people in this film are real as the person next door. I found a lot of the dialog and situations these people are faced with to be real and very authentic. Buddy Giovinazzo has come a long way since his first film (Combat ShocK) but he still retains the gritty realism and spirit of that film in his latest project. He seems to have a genuine feel for his characters and none of that pseudo-liberal guilt complex that similar films that come out of Hollywood have. No phony baloney middle class guilt trip here and I really appreciate that in a film like this one.
Well, let's see. where do i start? If you listen to the negative
reviews one might think this is a bad film.........when in fact, it is
a very good movie......the only people that I can think of that might
not have liked it may be crack dealers. If anyone wants to know what it
might be like to use, sell, or have association with crack even without
one's desire to; they should see this film. Crack life truly is
dangerous, frenetic, unhealthy, and it twists people's relationships
with each other; and yes, there can be cruelty, and mindlessness;
rarely is there any lasting kindness. The people in the story are, by
the nature of their involvement egocentric and self-centered of course;
all using addicts are. It is the nature of the beast.
Someone said the characters didn't show any humanity. I didn't get that at all. I thought the authors demonstrated quite ably how their humanity was being destroyed by their addictions and their environment.
Some others criticized the fact that only the white characters were redeemed. I wonder if they actually watched the film? or that all the crack dealers were black; all the crack dealers were NOT black actually. The actual ethnic make-up of the population of crack dealers, while sad, is irrelevant and anyone who focused on that missed the point. In actuality the most important fact about the make-up of crack dealers is that they were originally poor and came from terribly corrupted neighborhoods.
Some reviewers claimed it was unrealistic because the transsexuals were too pretty; well. They weren't all too pretty, if they watched the film. I have to wonder if some of the people who judge the realism of a film from their personal life experience really have the experience they think they do. There is a vast difference between what one imagines, what one reads, what one hears, other films people think are realistic because they want them to be and real life experience. So. Be careful with their critical advice when it is clear they are having an episode of fantasy about their real life. Someone else complained about casting.......i can't imagine how hard it must be to cast any film but i would like to offer that compared to say, the new version of Pelham 123 for instance, this film is brilliantly cast.
One thing I think bothers me more than anything with this particular venue, by the way, is the strong possibility that some of these more ridiculous negative reviews may come from people who may have some vested interest in bad mouthing a particular piece of work because they are the competition, a jilted lover, a disgruntled former employee, an un-hired employee, or the multitude of other bad reasons people say terrible things about good efforts; sadly, it is just a part of human nature. Human nature, at it's worst, as demonstrated by some of the characters in this film.........maybe some who had such personal problems with this film see themselves too closely paralleled with some of the characters.
Anyway, I thought it was quite realistic, possibly a little too sanitized but it really isn't necessary to overwhelm an audience with too much of the horror of violence in respect to the characters situations to get the messages of this film across.
The best thing to do is see it for yourselves and make up your own mind........please bear in mind; I have no vested interest involved in this review as I have never worked in "Hollywood" or any other related occupation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a bleak black film about how crack and other ills destroy the
lives of people. We have a small boy who has to figure out how to
survive with his sister and his parents; pre-op transsexual whose
boyfriend is addicted; a young man with a wife and baby who works days
as a security guard and nights in a bodega trying to get enough money
to get out, and a gangbanger and his crew who run rough shod over
everyone and each other in a crack fueled haze.
I began by saying that this is bleak and black and I mean it. The film begins with our gangbanger taking his girlfriend away from watching a street basketball game to show her something. Instead of showing her something he turns her over to his boys who brutally rape her and leave her crying in an alley. Its not a fun and happy film by any stretch of the imagination. It's not the sort of film that I would normally watch but the opening kind of floored me and I had to see where it was going. You would think it could only get better from there but it doesn't, we're on the fast track to hell as we watch as most things and people are broken.
Well acted, you like many of the "bad" people despite their actions, this film remains bearable thanks to the very good cast.
If there is any flaw in the film it's that its too clean. The film doesn't have a grittiness to it that speaks of the street. The film often has the feel of a Hollywood idea of the street and the poor. Its not that what happens doesn't ring true, it does, it just that things look dressed up. In a way it feels like people re-enacting events transpiring in the next room. The characters, the young boy and his sister most glaringly, seem to be playing dress up. The kids seem too well fed, the dirt on their faces too perfect. For me it put a distance between the actors and what was going on, some of the edge was taken off things.
Then again maybe that's a good thing since this is still an uncomfortable movie no matter how you slice it.
A good little film, this should have been great. Regardless of good or bad this film with haunt you like a bad dream.
Worth a look if you like your slices of life black with a side of hopeless.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Life Is Hot In Cracktown is the harsh uncompromising plethora of tales
about people who do crack, spend their time looking for money for crack
and live within its addiction 24/7. There's no frills here, no upside,
and no real hope. There's Mary Beth, (a dazzling turn by Kerry
Washington) a pre-op transgender, hooking to survive as her crack
frazzled boyfriend Benny (Desmond Harrington) robs apartments. Then
there's Romeo, (Evan Ross) a shell like dead eyed teen gangbanger,
husked out after his brother's death, and who spends his days raping
and terrorizing when he's not smoking up. Kids aren't spared either,
with ten year old Willie (Ridge Snipe) panhandling the streets for
money, partly to feed his younger sister, and partly to contribute
towards his parents addiction, all the while observing Melody, a teen
prostitute who he has a crush on.
Life Is Hot In Cracktown is a bleak, depressing yet strangely touching tour de force from one of the most underrated (and sadly and unjustly overlooked) director's around, Buddy Giovinazzo, who's searing debut Combat Shock was no less disturbing despite its micro budget.
Unsympathetic yet non-judgemental, it's quite frankly one of the best films I've seen recently and if this film was done by a mainstream or famous director, it would probably reap awards, with one in particular going to Washington and another to Evan Ross.
I caught this at the Edinburgh fabfest and it was one of the highlights of an already impressive lineup of films, with Buddy Giovinazzo as a special guest, who is one of the nicest, unassuming self deprecating guys you can meet. Hopefully Cracktown will get a US distribution because it deserves to be seen.
A highly recommended film, check it out. 9/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Human misery in it's purest form. LIFE IS HOT IN CRACKDOWN is the new
film from Buddy G and concerns the daily lives of a various assortment
of characters living on the streets dealing with difficult situations
such as drug abuse, gang violence, among other hot button issues. A
mother(Illeana Douglas) allows her abusive boyfriend to lash out at her
and the kids because of his personal problems after losing his job. A
store employee, Manny(Victor Rasuk), who runs it at night, with a wife
and kid(the kid, when we first are introduced to the family cries all
the time, causing an emotional stress for them all)is almost killed by
a robber whose gun is jammed. A married couple, Marybeth(Kerry
Washington)and Benny(Desmond Harrington), both junkies, try to remain a
solid couple despite their habits(and she is best friends with a
wealthy transvestite, Ridley(Mark Webber) while Benny has a hard time
adjusting to his decision to get a sex change)and times of friction in
their relationship. Black youths, led by thug Romeo(an intense Evan
Ross), consider themselves quite the gangsters until they are betrayed
by who they thought was their ally on the street. Two cops work the
beat on these streets, one a young rookie(Thomas Ian Nicholas) along
with a tired partner(Vondie Curtis-Hall) who has been a veteran cop a
long time and has seen it all.
Drug movies are never easy for me to sit through because you see people voluntarily destroy their lives. Unlike COMBAT SHOCK which ends in depressing fashion, Buddy G's newest film does provide some hope for a few of his characters. For instance, when it appears that their parents have left them all alone, Willy(Ridge Canipe)and Susie(Ariel Winter) may've, in actuality, been spared a life of despair and horror..if anything, it's quite possible that foster care would better benefit them. When Benny attempts to rob a store and is shot in the process, he's left in a comatose state, but it could be a wake-up call he needs to get things right in his life.
But, there are also plenty of bleak, uncompromising moments as well. An old man is bullied by Romeo and his boys unmercifully because he used money "owed to them" to buy his medicine and groceries..while his sick mother deteriorates, Romeo is out living a life of crime, basking in the power he thinks he has, his inevitable doom apparent in who he chooses to align himself with. It's never fun watching a little girl hiding behind a pillow afraid she'll be hit by a screaming man complaining that his "family" isn't doing enough to help pay the rent. Ridley feels liberated that he'll finally be able to address who he really is, but when faced with being cut off from his trust fund, this freedom could be shortlived..and that could include abandoning the one true friend who helped motivate him to embrace his homosexuality, Marybeth.
LIFE IS HOT IN CRACKTOWN is what Buddy G can do with a decent budget and a good ensemble cast. Children aren't admonished from the harsh environs of life on the streets..one girl Willy knows is stabbed and we see others prostituting themselves. The black youth who terrorize the old man and follow orders to do a series of chores for their gang brothers are punished for the life they chose. And, to protect himself, Manny packs a pistol but how will he respond when a gun is pointed at him and to the idea of actually shooting someone, even if it's a robber? Nothing's more disconcerting than seeing kids with guns and constant eruptions of violence at their hands. Buddy Giovinazzo is a brave filmmaker who doesn't take the easy way out, instead portraying urban squalor and broken homes/lives as they really exist. This movie is based on his own collection of stories and it's an impressive return. With Shannyn Sossamon as Manny's wore out wife Concetta and Laura Flynn Boyle as an aging hooker, Betty. Lots of drug abuse is featured in this movie and there are endless instances of unpleasantness, but Buddy G doesn't wallow in the details as much.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am sitting here reading all these reviews of this horrible, poorly directed, poorly cast, awful dialogue cliché ridden film and I am amazed to see people describe this film as "realistic", "real" & "authentic". I grew up in poor neighborhoods and know people who are drug addicts and their is nothing "real" about this film. "Life is Hot in Crack Town" is filled with cliché'd two dimensional stereotypes (not stereotypes from film which tends to be more PC, but stereotypes from news headlines) lacking all humanity and believability. Actually, I take the last part back. This movie is probably believable and "real" to people who have no contact or first hand knowledge of what goes on in these types of neighborhoods (which I am sure is the case with the reviewers who found this film so "authentic").
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
U know when you're laughing and it's not supposed to be funny? That's this movie. Characters are a joke. Not believable at all. Crackheads wearing make up, hair done...Story doesn't have meaning when you're watching "thugs" walking in unison to a funky beat...R u kidding? Those thugs were hilarious! I thought it was a Wayans movie! Good the director got it made....its hard to make an indie... but using "whoa look how far we're gonna take it" shocking scenes to make it seem more real?...actually does the opposite. Casting's wrong, direction, pacing, everything... could even be considered an insult to those battling real drug addiction. Really belittles their struggle. Some good talent, solid actors, but the story's so cliché no performance could save it. Tell a story about real crackheads and junkies not actors trying new stuff in this fictional urban jungle
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Don't do crack.
The message could also be, 'Don't move to NYC, anytime'. At least not if you are poor. It's a message a bit more timeless than don't do crack, and a message it wouldn't hurt to remind folks of even here in North Carolina.
The message could also be: buy a gun and be ready to use it. The movie shows a cast of characters willing to rape teenage prostitutes, hold hostage, and rape senior citizens, male ones, in a daily maneuver to get their welfare checks, and, when one tenant calls the police, not only do they not show up but the landlord kicks him out for making the call. It's inviting trouble apparently.
A third of the way through the movie finally someone fights back, a mumbling character who's the boyfriend of a transsexual being harassed. He's the good guy in the movie. It's good to know even a movie this depraved can still find room to put in a pro-gay theme. Robbery, murder, sexual harassment: You have to draw the line somewhere and apparently on those who won't march in favor of homosexuality is where.
A shopkeeper in the movie at what would amount to 'the arab store' (who is actually Hispanic, I think) fights back too, shooting a would be robber. It's this scene where we learn fighting back isn't good either, as it leads to ugly death. It's not even his store, he's just a worker apparently. The store clerk could not regret his decision more.
So the message seems to be don't anything. Don't feel anything. Ball up like a rollie-pollie on the floor and try to avoid being stepped on. Take no action in this world. Everything is bad. There are no good guys. Being neurotic, and being gay, is a small price to pay for there to be one less person out there being shot by a stupid guy. There was a book out once with the title, "The Pursuit of Loneliness". This movie is saying the opposite. We'd be better off alone. At least in Cracktown. It's probably up to you to determine the boundaries of 'Cracktown'.
Oh - and don't trust black guys. All the really-bad guys in this movie, getting away with everything, are black.
My favorite scene in the movie is when the transsexual goes to her friend Gabrielle's house, in tears, "My boyfriends been shot. They don't know if he's going to make it" unwisely adding "how are you". Gabrielle immediately launches into an explanation of how he can't be 'Gabrielle' anymore. His mother is going to take him back, if he ends his current ways. "I can't be poor" he says. So there are two heroines in this movie. 'Gabrielle' Gary now or something, says they can't be friends anymore and shuts the door on the crying transsexuals face! So white. So gay. How real can you get?
This is one of those ultra violent (and this particular one is dirty and desperate and ugly) movies we can gush about afterward saying how great and amazing (and artistic) and (sadly) how real? it is, because it is supposed to be an anti-violence film. And I suppose if we don't understand the action we're probably some kind of wimp. Apparently, the only way to curb violence is to show more and more of it. Anything less would be reactionary, or conservative, not to mention a lot less hip. I'm willing to bet the original title was intended to be 'Life is Hard in CrackTown' (certainly an adequate one-line review) but, 'too preachy'.
I was entertained but, while I didn't really like the movie a lot on a conscious level, I did enjoy myself watching the movie, I think. . . When I left the theater, as I was walking out (or as I am usually walking out) and that strange feeling I get? - after watching a film filled with splendor - I felt completely the opposite of that. On some kind of subliminal level this film brought those feelings close to the surface, but in an opposite way. The lives of those in Cracktown are so sad and desperate and the scenes so dirty and ugly, my own very sad life began to seem livable.
So, while you don't want to live in Cracktown, it's not so bad living a few blocks away.
I'm gonna have to eat some crow here, especially after complaining
about the last film I reviewed, SHADOWHEART. Both it and this one
LIFE IS HOT IN CRACKTOWN came to me via Amazon's Vine Program. And I
was becoming rather tired of the careless films that tended to populate
The Vine's DVD list. Well, Life Is Hot In Cracktown has reformed me
...somewhat. It isn't great. It isn't stupendous. But it is gritty,
real, and put together in a way that made it extremely watchable.
All of these characters are well-rounded and exceptionally well acted. There will be someone that every watcher will be able to connect with. Whether it's the young boy looking after his younger sister as his mother and her boyfriend get high and leave them alone for days, or the pre-op transsexual Marybeth (Kerry Washington, THE LAST KING OF Scotland) and her emotionally labile boyfriend Benny, or Manny, the guy working two jobs trying to support his wife Concetta (Shannyn Sossaman, WRISTCUTTERS) and their colicky baby, or the gang-banger Romeo who's life on the street is turning him into a dangerous individual, there's someone here for everyone.
The interest comes in the fact that you watch most of these people make horrible decisions or do terrible things, yet you cannot look away or even condemn them. They are the best and worst of us all, and it shows a rugged side of humanity that most of us would rather not see ...except to realize that one of these people might have been you had you not had a few breaks. It's frightening and enlightening.
The best part of the film is toward the end as we watch each person forced to make a decision and wonder at what the outcome will be. It is a turning point in their lives and we are given front row seats to it. Amazing how it all came together.
Watching the special features, I have to disagree with Kerry Washington's comment about transsexuals never being shown on film in any meaningful way. The film TRANSAMERICA focused specifically on this subject and was a fantastic film. Just FYI, Kerry.
Anyway, this film is actually quite good, even though I found the title a bit unfortunate.
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