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Ill Times (2009)

Video  -  Crime | Drama  -  5 May 2009 (USA)
6.0
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Ratings: 6.0/10 from 6 users  
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A day (the last, for some) in the lives of an immoral-yet-lovable sex fiend, a promiscuous small-time gangster, a vengeful female drug-dealer, an abused wife, a desperate single mother, a ... See full summary »

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Title: Ill Times (Video 2009)

Ill Times (Video 2009) on IMDb 6/10

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Cast

Credited cast:
Mister Blue ...
Dwight
Ernest Broome ...
Boo
Todd Brown ...
Gabriel
Dennis Cothran ...
Slick
Michael Hicks ...
Richard
Hayley Lakeman ...
Gina
Travis Lakeman ...
Kyle
Conney Lemke ...
Patty
James McGriff ...
Leroy
Mimi ...
Helen
...
Chelsea (as Teresa Baranowski)
Felicia Poirier ...
Amanda
Demond Reed ...
Dee
...
Chante
Paris Simpson ...
Mel
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Storyline

A day (the last, for some) in the lives of an immoral-yet-lovable sex fiend, a promiscuous small-time gangster, a vengeful female drug-dealer, an abused wife, a desperate single mother, a grieving widow, a wretched heroin addict, a shady hit man, a lonely mid-life crisis victim, a conniving husband, a guilt-ridden father and a hapless babysitter. Their stories intersect to create this gritty urban drama. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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When foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated
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Release Date:

5 May 2009 (USA)  »

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Budget:

$250,000 (estimated)
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1.33 : 1
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Quotes

Richard: I'm willing to die for my daughter, so your little gun doesn't scare me.
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User Reviews

Ryli's husband over-reaches; result n.s.g.
2 August 2010 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

Videomaker Mark Baranowski tried to stake out new turf with ILL TIMES, an ambitious but woefully unsuccessful stab at serious drama and dare I say, social commentary. Such Stanley Kramerism does not sit well in a direct-to-video environment currently suited to horror & sex.

Of course there's no harm in trying, but I can't imagine the audience for this one. All of Baranowski's other works spotlight the unique undraped beauty of his wife Ryli Morgan, and that is the hook for viewer satisfaction. Ryli has a small role in this one, but to avoid confusion among potential fans she's billed under her real name Teresa Baranowski.

Feature opens with MB voicing over (very self-reflexively) his musings about "what is a story?". After a montage of still-lifes setting up the Charlotte, NC locale, camera blurrily pans over to a bible lying on the ground. Uh, oh -we're in for a lecture.

The episodic vignettes that follow purport to depict what a sorry society we've inherited, filled with drug addicts, drug pushers, unfaithful wives and husbands, rapists and casual murderers. Faith and spirituality are noticeably absent and it all seems so hopeless. Certainly a monumental topic to tackle, but Baranowski sets this opus on the sleepy, tranquil streets of Charlotte, not the mean streets of some grimy metropolis. That combined with very awkward, not-ready-for-prime-time acting, makes the whole video seem like one of those run-through tapes shot of a rehearsal, to get a feel ahead of time for how the real film might play. Since there's no real action, sets or even set-pieces, it doesn't seem like a finished film (or in this case video instead of a film).

I've long felt that Baranowski and friends should make the leap to real filmmaking, you know -actually shooting on film, with a real budget and all the trappings. IMDb lists this baby as costing $250,000 to produce -an utterly preposterous figure, as what appears on screen, with a lesser cast (no names this time) than usual, looks to be in the $10,000 range. You can't get decent results at this level, no matter how persuasive is the script.

And Mark's script for ILL TIMES is far from credible. The double dealings and triple dealings by the characters are utterly contrived and unconvincing, and the second half of the video digresses into awkward flashbacks which are either confusing or self-defeating. Except for the attempted humor by the oldest cast member, Dennis Cothran as weird Slick, the feature is doom & gloom. Final freeze-frame of Ryli/Teresa playing with her real-life infant son is hopeful -way too hopeful in context of what's gone before. End credit is Psalm 7:9, a plea asking God to "bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure".

One element that went way over my head is the curious depiction (or irrelevance) of race in ILL TIMES. Blacks and whites figure at about a 50/50 ratio in the cast with no other minorities like Latinos or Asian Americans around. There are several intermarriages, interracial rapes, extramarital sex reverting to white with white, etc., and it's all presented in some sort of "post-racial" fantasyland to use the current right-wing nomenclature. I didn't get what Baranowski was driving at, other than perhaps a banality that true integration in all dimensions doesn't solve anything. I hope he doesn't make a video about homosexuals and lesbians having catastrophic problems in a futuristic society where all prejudices and barriers against their lifestyle have been lifted!

Uneven cast mixes rappers like Mister Blue, giving a flat performance as a hit-man; England Simpson, a plus-size scream queen/singer who is impressive in the central role of Chante, a "sympathetic" dope pusher trying to keep her family together (!); Slick, miserable as an oldie-but-goodie rapist; Todd Brown, extremely boring as the main villain, a wife beater, philanderer, drunk and murder plotter who gets his comeuppance; Demon Reed, Baranowski's a.d./2nd in command cast unconvincingly as Chante's ne'er-do-well brother Dee -more of a plot cog than an acting role; Mimi, a bit too convincing as doomed addict Helen; Michael Hicks, over-the-top in his earnestness as Helen's Vietnam War vet/bible thumping dad.

Film's low point is Hicks' lengthy, at gunpoint confrontation with stereotypical gangsta lowlife Boo (stiffly played by Ernest Broome). The generational/racial/social/religious divides of this ambitious scene are painfully mishandled, and it comes off as inane and thoroughly unbelievable. If the rest of the film were A-grade, this scene would sink the whole edifice.

As usual Baranowski takes all the credits not nailed down for himself, typical of a home movie. Backyard filming (videoing) is not what the doctor ordered, with a big mistake having all the interiors strewn with the auteur's collection of genre (plus Pacino in SCARFACE) movie posters, embarrassingly inappropriate and destroying credibility. All action material including rapes and gun shots are left off-screen, as if Baranowski were afraid to intersect with exploitation material. Or, he couldn't afford any blood-packs and explosive caps in his budget?


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