by Dustin P. Anderson
Our story follows Primo as he leads the son of a fallen comrade, John, through the life of a Blood. John is trying to follow in the footsteps of his recently departed father by running “packages” for the gang. His mother tries to keep him on the law-abiding path, but John’s ties to the gang are deep. John soon figures out the burdens of this lifestyle and must make a choice on whether he will stay the course of his father, or adhere to the wishes of his mother. Primo’s words serve as both advice and caution as John makes this decision. Primo warns that there are no favorites in this life, only business.
The first five minutes of this movie set the tone for what the audience can expect from the rest of the film. This is a deep and somber movie; it doesn’t need to stand on violence or clichés to make its message heard. The story is not about what the gang does, it is more about how the families of a gang member work. I love it. This is a refreshing premise, since it is the first movie I have seen in a while that tried to have its own voice about gang life, meaning it doesn’t have to try to emulate Boyz n the Hood. This movie can finally be something completely separate, and it turns out that separation is a good thing. The dialog in this sounds gritty and raw, like the script was written while listening to an actual conversation. The small ways in which the actors talk, the slang and code used, were especially nice touches. The parts that seem like they would be the slowest scenes in the movie are actually the most important and will stick with me for a long time, like seeing Primo play with his kids at the park or watching him interact with his wife. The best part of this writing has to be that I never feel like I am being lectured about gang life. There are warnings, to be sure, but it always feels sincere. It is less like a teacher saying that their student shouldn’t do drugs and more like a mentor telling the hard truths to someone who follows them.
This movie never feels like a cheaply-made piece; in fact, it felt more like a big-budget blockbuster. The shots used were carefully picked, and every one of them felt important (even if they weren’t). When I’m looking at a close-up of Primo, every part of me wants to hear what he has to say or pay attention to what he is doing, because of the timing of that close-up. When I’m looking at John taking practice shots at a trash barrel on the beach, I am completely locked into the scene. It isn’t anticipation or adrenaline that is hooking me, it is the way it was shot. The only thing I am hearing is the waves from the beach, the crack of the gun, and the slightly muffled bang of the can. The only thing I am seeing is the dim lights of the city, John looking at the barrel or over his shoulder, and the barrel itself. There is no wasted space, and I would appreciate if more movies were doing something exactly like this.
The performances were this movie’s strongest parts, and at some times its weakest. Primo is the king in this picture, because he acts like someone who cares about the role. It might be because he has lived this role in the real world, but he doesn’t take that for granted. He never oversells a scene, and he never tries to act like he is telling a life story. It is like he is just acting like himself. The only part where this movie stumbles slightly is with John. John tries too hard to sell his character in some scenes, like whenever he is hanging out with his girlfriend. He saves himself slightly when he is in scenes with Primo or around his friends, but those few points where he slips sour my taste for his character.
This movie is a rare gem, and you won’t be sorry that you gave it an hour and a half of your time. This movie teaches, warns, and entertains throughout the better part of its runtime, and I would thoroughly enjoy watching it again.