02 August 2008
Somehow -- I know it's weird considering the era, the stars, and the subject matter -- I had never heard of this film until last night. Apparently, I selected it from BigPond Flicks, but I don't remember doing that either. Still, there's a first time for everything, right?
I didn't love it. It's like, as Steve suggested, a Bronx version of American Graffiti in which we meet small groups of desperate teenagers and watch them turn their lives upside down over a period of only a night or two. It's supposed to reflect a generation, and perhaps it does that (I'm as far removed from Bronx life in the '64 as I was from Modesto teen-hood in '62 so how would I really know?), but it doesn't offer that much in the way of whys and what-fors. Some strange characters interact, shit hits the fan gruesomely and dramatically, but not all the characters figure in to the main thread of the story which leaves me wondering why they were there in the first place.
John Turturro plays Heinz, a young man released from prison who returns to his old neighbourhood. He's clearly a little odd, and we get the impression that something is boiling in him. Enter Linda and Harry, the girl Heinz tries to rape and the guy who she uses as protection from him now that he's out and about. There's also Jamie in the mix, though, who suffered a permanent limp trying to help Linda during her attack, and loves her very much. The four will end up in a horrible place by the film's end, due mainly to Heinz's sociopathy.
But, while all this is going on, there's a another group of kids we're meeting and getting to know. Two girls, high on glue, are travelling around with the boyfriend of one who gets so sick of their high giggling that he sells them to two random vandals on the street (one of which is played by beautiful and tragic Rodney Harvey). The girls wake up naked and confused the next morning in a strange apartment. The two guys, though, are twisted but really nice, and they take the girls out bowling and playing in elevator shafts. Interesting though they may be, they have very little to do with the Heinz story, so their eventual fading out of the picture really makes no sense. Why were they there?
Still, it was interesting to watch this moody take on life in '64 for these particular people. The whole thing gets uber-gritty at the end and reminded me of Boulevard Nights and Bad Boys. Those two movies were among my favourites growing up. There was nothing, at one time in my life, I didn't eat up more than tragic stories of tragic teens in blue and black-tinged run down backstreets of America. Now, however, I might be expecting more from my teen-sploitation pieces.
This has to be one of the worst DVD treatments ever. It was like they'd taken a 20 year old vhs tape and transferred it directly to DVD. The movie was so dark, you couldn't see what was going on most of the time - which was a bitch because most of the story took place at night - and the daylight scenes were so faded and muddy, it was like trying to watch it through chocolate milk.
This careless transfer definitely had an effect on my viewing experience, but I argue that it still wouldn't have been a very good movie, anyway, for the same reasons Nikki mentioned. But at least I wouldn't have been so annoyed by it in the end if I could at least have seen what was happening.