Saturday, September 5, 2009

Surprisingly not starring Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown

This past Wednesday, I went to the supermarket to buy some booze -- I can always get food at a drive-thru. As she took the black plastic guard off the top of my bottle of Sobieski, the cute checkout girl said to me "You'll feel a lot better after some of this, huh?". I didn't know whether to hit her or propose marriage. If this was the 50's, perhaps one followed by the other, but this is the 00's, so I just smiled and told her that she had no idea how right she was. Of course, I entertained myself on the way back home with thoughts of What If? The good and the bad with me and the checkout girl. By the time I parked my car, I was well into an overly romanticized Days of Wine and Roses style relationship with her.

The truth would be a lot uglier, I suspect, something closer to the shit that happens to the characters played by Illeana Douglas and Asshole Chef from Dinner Rush in this movie I saw the other night called Life is Hot in Cracktown. Or maybe not, because me and Checkout Girl would be booze hounds, not crack addicts like those two jokers.

This flick is an ensemble piece about people who are all about the rocks and I guess they got pretty fuckin' lucky to find themselves living in a city named after that shit. Here in Cracktown, everybody's on crack (except for the odd few who dig heroin and probably couldn't afford bus fare to Smackville) and everyone wears clothing that is either stained, worn-out or both. The cops in Cracktown are pretty nice and mellow guys without an ounce of dickhead in them, which is probably why crack and crime runs rampant here.

So back to Illeana Douglas and Asshole Chef from Dinner Rush. They go around town looking to score while leaving two kids to fend for themselves in their rundown, roach-infested apartment. The older son has to go out and beg for change to feed his little sister, and when Mom and Boyfriend come back and find out, the first thing these jonesing motherfuckers ask him is if he has any money left. That's the kind of parenting we're dealing with here. What makes it even more sad is that the mom has moments of displaying honest-to-goodness love and concern to her children, but then here comes Asshole Chef from Dinner Rush with a fresh hit of crack to bring her back to the City of I-Could-Give-A-Shit-About-My-Kids-It's-All-About-Meeee (current mayor: Joe Jackson).

The husband and wife played by Shannyn Sossamon and Some Latino Dude, on the other hand, give a plentiful amount of shits about their baby. She's busy being a good mommy and he's busy working two jobs and studying for his GED so they can get the fuck out of Cracktown. I mean, it's really gotta suck to live in Cracktown when you don't even do crack. That's like living in Las Vegas and not gambling or living in Aspen and not skiing or living in Boston and not hating black people. I had to hit the Mute button and read the closed captions for half of their scenes, though, because baby boy Ramon is like one of those babies from the Godfather movies, this little motherfucker is crying 24/7. Part of Sossamon & Latino Dude's story involves them getting despondent over this kid not shutting the fuck up, and I understand this, but I hear enough at that shit at Target, Walmart, movie theaters, restaurants, airplanes, outdoors, indoors, everywhere on this goddamn planet, that I will fuckin' exercise the shit out of that Mute button on my remote, tout de fuckin' suite.

In Cracktown, chicks with dicks look like Kerry Washington aka Bill Maher's Fantasy from Lakeview Terrace. She plays a transgender person with a boyfriend who digs her/him/it, even though he might not necessarily be into the same sex. Think about that; here's a straight dude who fell in love with this shemale, even though he was pretty sure he was into chicks. I mean, it's still very much like a chick, it looks like a chick and talks like a chick, and he really enjoys its company, but there's that limp and flaccid barrier between its legs that puts a damper on the whole relationship. Personally, I would tell the guy that as long as her dick isn't bigger than his, he should just chill the fuck out and love that thing till the day they die.

People in desperate situations do fucked up things, the movie seems to be telling us, some are more fucked up than others but there are no real evil villains, just painfully misguided motherfuckers. Doesn't mean you should feel sorry for them, just understand why they are the way they are. I was able to roll with that for a while, but there's one character with whom it was very fuckin' tough to do that with, and that's the character of Romeo. He's played by some dude named Evan Ross, and this motherfucker I thought they pulled from the streets. Turns out he's the son of Diana Ross and a Norwegian shipping magnate. You wouldn't know it from the performance he gives here.

Jesus, what a fucking scumbag this Romeo is! Again, the movie isn't asking us to feel sorry for the dude (at least I hope it's not), just understand why he is the way he is. We're told that his kid brother was a recent victim of street violence, so that shit may have amped up his bad behavior, but I doubt it was that big a difference. This fuckin' piece-of-shit prowls the streets with his punk-ass crew, robbing, raping, terrorizing old retirees for their social security checks, horrific shit like that. I know this would be entirely unrealistic, but holy shit, I was hoping that Charles Bronson would eventually step in and introduce this cocksucker to his friend Wildey. That would've made Life is Hot in Cracktown the greatest movie ever made, as opposed to the merely good flick it is.

I'm not kidding about the dirty clothes and faces though, and since I never grew up in Cracktown, I can't say with any certainty whether that was some overdone theatrical bullshit or the Real Thing. That was distracting, as well as recognizing the familiar faces in some of the roles. I understand that if the filmmakers didn't get people like Lara Flynn Boyle and Superman '06 to play whores and junkies, this shit never would've gotten financed, but it's still a problem that sometimes took me out of the movie. It's like if the movie Kids kept the same cast but now Leonardo DiCaprio is playing Casper and the cab driver is played by Samuel L. Jackson. It's a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation, and I hate to pull this armchair filmmaker shit (and what the fuck do I know about making movies?), but I think they were better off sticking to unknowns for the cast. Except for the RZA, because that guy rules and should be in every movie, even Julie & Julia.

The movie was written and directed by Buddy Giovinazzo, who came onto the scene back in the 80's with Combat Shock (aka American Nightmares), distributed by Troma, and the way they sold THAT movie, I thought I was in for a fun, trashy Deadbeat at Dawn type of flick. That was not the case at all. It was harsh, bleak, and depressing as fuck -- so it should be no surprise that the dude has a big following in Germany. But it was still a good movie, definitely not for everyone, and worth it for those that can hang. And I guess that's what you can say about Cracktown as well, except it's not nearly as hopeless and potentially suicide-inducing as Combat Shock was, and that's either a good thing or bad thing, depending on your state of mind. The toughest scene to watch in Cracktown is the very first one (a damn near unwatchable rape scene that's even longer in the director's cut), but if you can get past that, the rest is a smooth ride in comparison.

Life is Hot in Cracktown feels very Hubert Selby Jr-esque, and while it sure as shit ain't Requiem for a Dream, it's still a darker, grittier flick than most of what's come out this year. I don't know how it compares to Last Exit to Brooklyn, though, because I haven't seen that shit, I've only read the book. I know it might be hard to believe based on my terribly written ramblings, but I read. Anyway, I liked this movie and I was left hanging and wanting to see more when it ended, which I guess makes it pretty fucking good by my scale, right? I don't know, I'm fucking buzzed right now and my word can't be counted on for shit.