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Below is a review from the great folks at Rogue Cinema on Gary Ugarek’s Feature Length Independet Crime/Drama [All In The Game] starring Nelson Irizarry, Chris Clanton, Micaiah Jones, Kelvin Drama and Daniel Ross. Along with Mike McMullin, Vonn Harris, and yours truly! #StayTuned and #Enjoy
Although you probably wouldn’t think that Rogue Cinema would receive a fair share of hip hop inspired crime films, I have received my own fair share of titles that thrive within this genre. These are not movies that focus entirely on hip hop as a music form, but instead these are films that act as depictions of the pure bravado that some forms of hip hop promote. Despite being a big fan of hip hop, I tend to veer away from the “gangsta” rap element. However, I still consider myself a fairly massive fan of crime cinema in general. A part of me loves the idea of gangster-movie loyalists doing their part in continuing the legacy of great crime films, but these movies do often fall into many of the same pitfalls. As we have seen in the horror genre within recent years, genre fans can contribute both the best and the very worst when it comes to their respective genres. All in the Game is a gangster title that looks to take its inspiration from several organized-crime movies from the past, but offers a slightly more modern twist. In a multitude of ways, the movie does turn out to be successful, but unfortunately it also suffers from several key issues that tend to drag it down.All in the Game tells the story of Ontario Damon Banks (Nelson Irizarry), a East Baltimore based criminal kingpin who has intentions of taking over the city. Standing in his way are the local mafia bosses, who control the city with a iron fist. Ontario, however, has devised a plan to start a quiet war with the Italians that will see his crew taking on these old style gangsters without riling up a war in the streets. To do this, he intends to aim directly for the head of his enemies. What follows is a series of kidnappings and brutal murders that may very well see Ontario rise to the top of the Baltimore criminal world. However, not everyone within Ontario’s empire will stick along for the ride. I have seen many low budget crime films in my time as a reviewer here at Rogue Cinema. It appears that despite “gangsta” rap taking a dive in popularity, the independent film world has taken a liking to this Scarface-inspired world of crass and violent businessmen. Although All in the Game starts off featuring a few amateurish performances, it quickly shows promise and technical wizardry that sets it above many films in this genre. The first clue for the audience that these filmmakers actually intend to do something slightly different, comes in the form of its black and white cinematography. This is something that comes fairly unexpected, due to black and white photography often being relegated to art films or neo-noir titles in this modern age. This immediately creates a atmosphere of creativity that the movie does not deviate from. In combination with this retro fashion, the film also uses a great deal of handheld camerawork in an attempt to create something slightly meta. This combination of new and old aesthetics somehow works well together, and manages to bring a gritty sort of realism to the film. The problem with a lot of these movies, however, are the lack of true characters. Although we all love strong gangsters leading our crime films, there needs to be multiple dimensions to make any character stand out as realistic. Although Al Pacino is famous for saying that his character Tony Montanna was gloriously two-dimensional, Tony was actually very well written. Considering that Tony Montanna is the blueprint for almost every over-the-top crime movie made in its wake, I believe that he is the perfect example for what works and what does not in a hardened crime-movie. Tony Montanna may have been a tough guy onscreen, but his drug problem made him a wild gun who couldn’t control himself in the slightest bit. He also had a incestuous love affair going on with his sister, which added another strange layer to a well built and multi-faceted character. In direct opposition to this, a character who is built primarily on posturing seems to work best when he is played in a slightly more low key fashion. All in the Game, however, is anything but low key. Verbose speeches are thrown around like characters are delivering Shakespearean monologs. Our lead, the character Ontario, is performed well by Nelson Irizarry. He is a strong and intimidating force when he is onscreen, however, the character only seems to have one face for the audience: “Badass.” Unfortunately, this becomes rather hard to swallow, and audiences may not react well to his lengthy speeches throughout the duration of the film. All in the Game is low on plot, but high on violence and general tough guy demeanor. This is a hit or miss situation, because it will probably limit the audience for such a title. While some are bound to enjoy the testosterone-fueled machismo that accompanies the film, others will be slightly more realistic when focusing on the actual logistics of the movie. In all actuality, this is a title that is based around several torture sequences where our leading man espouses long pages worth of expositional dialogue. After a while, the long speeches and the brutal torture sessions can grow somewhat stale. Some viewers might appreciate the purely gangster approach that the movie takes, but I personally found myself rather conflicted while watching. A solid little crime film, All in the Game obviously won’t make it on every viewers “best of” list at the end of the year. I do think that the movie shows that director Gary Ugarek has a tremendous amount of talent, and he should do well in establishing himself. A visually compelling feature, All in the Game certainly manages to differentiate itself from the pack. I know that I personally look forward to seeing how the director stretches out and handles a slightly larger scope in the near future. For more information, check out the film’s official Facebook page
By The Vocabulariast on Saturday, 4th September 2010
I am constantly amazed by Jimmy Traynor, one of the hardest working indie directors in the business. Traynor is a one man film factory who appears to be able to cobble a story together out of seemingly nothing other than a handful of actors and a couple of locations. Traynor’s latest indie opus is a tough-luck film about a man discovering what’s really important in life. While the film is far from perfect, the earnest sentiment of the film manages to salvage it.
The film tells the tale of Doug Johnson, a hard-working dude who holds down three jobs simply to pay for a house which isn’t in the bad part of town. His jobs prevent him from being able to spend quality time with his son and his wife, both of whom he loves very much. As the strain of working every day begins to take its toll on the family, they begin to drift apart. His wife Trish becomes friends with a shady hornball named Rick, who operates under the guise of the “well-meaning church friend.” His son Doug remains in close contact with his friend from the streets, and tries to adapt to his new environment. Through an unfortunate twist of fate, Doug learns what really matters in life and secures his salvation with a new understanding of the world around him.
Traynor’s latest flick is another example of indie spirit at work. Traynor has gradually come to tighten up the dialogue and transition scenes in his film, so that there aren’t giant pauses which affect the pacing. Second Chances flows nicely and there’s no dead space in the film. Traynor tells the story of Second Chances in a meandering way, which takes some getting used to, but the payoff is worth it. Now the only thing that Traynor needs to do to take his film to the next level is upgrade the look of his movies. A better camera, more sophisticated lighting, and less claustrophobic settings will go a long way into allowing Traynor to make some fine cinema.
The cast is also a slight upgrade over some of Traynor’s previous flicks. LeRoy Taylor gives a sympathetic portrayal of Doug Johnson. Taylor finds his stride in many scenes, and as a lead in an indie flick, he is definitely up to the task. Shari Nelson is somewhat of a mixed bag as Trish, Doug’s wife. There are some scenes where she is outstanding, but others where she’s just a little off. There are also some huge problems in the writing of the character, as it’s awful hard to care about a wife who does nothing but go to church while her husband slaves away at three jobs. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t kick that cooze to the curb. Kevin Page is a nice find as David, Doug and Trish’s son.
Overall, Second Chances is a somewhat simplistic film. Its plot is the type of everyday “slice of life” fare that anyone can connect to. And that’s what this film is, an attempt from director Traynor to connect to his audience and impart a modicum of wisdom. Its honesty is refreshing, and to be honest, Traynor’s approach is something that you simply don’t see too often. That makes Second Chances somewhat refreshing, despite its flaws.
Final Synopsis: Second Chances is another in Jimmy Traynor’s growing list of films. It’s put together solidly. It still lacks the polish needed to make it a solid recommendation, but for those of you that like to support a man that works his ass off, I say check it out.
Points Lost: -1 for a couple sound quality blips, -1 for claustrophobic locations that narrow the film’s scope, -1 for an overabundance of time transition title cards at the end of the film, -1 for inconsistent lighting, -1 for a cheap look to the film
Lesson Learned: Don’t forget about the things that are important in life.
Burning Question: Can I borrow your lawn choppa?
Tags: drama, kevin page, latest independent movie reviews, latest movie reviews, leroy taylor, new independent movie reviews. jimmy traynor, new indie film reviews, new indie movie reviews, shari nelson