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High crimes in the wake of the flood

Cut Throat City was an official selection at this year's SXSW Fest as it has all of the right ingredients to throw moviemaking in the face of Quentin Tarantino. It worked well too, much to this reviewer's surprise.


Cut Throat City

Stars: 4.5

Starring Shameik Moore, Wesley Snipes, Tip "T.I." Harris, Terrence Howard, Demetrius Shipp Jr., Denzel Whitaker, Keean Johnson, Eiza Gonzalez, Kat Graham, Isaiah Washington and Ethan Hawke

Directed by RZA

Written by P.G. Cuschieri

Runtime: 132 minutes

Unrated with scenes of violence, pervasive language, drug content, some sexual material, and nudity

Now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and VOD/Digital

Bonus features on the discs include Behind the Scenes, Deleted Scenes, and Trailers

From its graphic novel beginning - and I do mean ‘graphic’ - Cut Throat City seems to have all the right ingredients for a black comeback to Quentin Tarantino, making it feel like a dance off gauntlet has been thrown down cinematically, if such a thing was possible. This sprawling urban drama rings of Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction mashed into one Louisiana crime fest in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This is oneupmanship for sure, but it has more of a real world struggle at its core, and things are never as cool as they are in the movies.

Well done, RZA and it’s super jazzy too.

The story finds Blink, Miracle, Andre, and Junior, four friends from the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans on the occasion of one's wedding. Not much for a honeymoon, however, as Katrina breaks the mood and turns it especially foul and sodden. Writer P.G. Cuschieri crafted a strong time and setting for despaired and desperate characters in this gorgeous city ravaged by nature, the hopes and prospects of the people ravaged along with it. These four friends find themselves in a struggle to support themselves and their families and get them all back on dry land. Things don’t look great and the odds are stacked up against them. The Federal Emergency Management Agency left them as wet as the hurricane did, so it’s all up to them. Even selling drugs doesn't dig them out of the hole they're in.

And that’s exactly the sorry state that Cousin Bass (rapper-producer-actor Tip "T.I." Harris) finds them in. The gangster books them to pull of a heist on his behalf. It’s centered right in the heart of the city so it’s no stretch to predict how wrong it can go. Still, they take it because they feel out of options. ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures’ and all that.

Naturally, it does go wrong as they always do. "Don't rob casinos" is a strong reminder that this film offers. Nothing good will come of it. The price is always higher than the treasure being sought.

This movie is surprisingly good with effective performances and a solid heart of the American struggle too. It's also refreshingly tense, as so many heist movies automatically feel like the protagonist will come out unscathed at the end. The audience doesn't get the benefit of that reassurance, leaving us all on the actual edges of our seats until the climax. This is all aided by a sense of atmosphere - not just the physical setting but the psychological one as well - that is as important to the story as is the great cast of supporting actors. Honestly, it's a wholly remarkable piece of non-pulpy fiction.



Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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