Life Is Hot in Cracktown (DVD Review)18 Jul, 2009 By: Billy Gil
Prebook 7/23/09; Street 8/25/09
Drama, $26.97 DVD
Stars Kerry Washington, Brandon Routh, Evan Ross, RZA, Victor Rasuk, Shannyn Sossamon, Illeana Douglas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Vondie Curtis Hall, Lara Flynn Boyle.
A more fitting title for this brutal slice-of-life film directed, written and based on a book by Buddy Giovinazzo, might have been “Life Is Bloody and Disturbing in Cracktown.”
The multicharacter drama seems to be set in the slums of Los Angeles, although the lack of noticeable landmarks makes it able to fit Chicago, Baltimore, New York or any other metropolis. The story concerns characters whose lives don’t intersect as much as they are interrelated by violence, cocaine and prostitution.
Illeana Douglas’ deadbeat mom cares for two kids while dealing with an abusive deadbeat lover. Romeo (Evan Ross) is an aspiring gangbanger out to make a name for himself. Brandon Routh and Lara Flynn Boyle have small roles as a junkie and a prostitute, respectively.
These characters don’t so much follow plot arcs as they are set up and allowed to play out their sad lives, occasionally intermingling. The resulting film is at times gritty and revealing; at other times, it feels superficial, hard to watch and harder to believe. Fans of street dramas such as MacArthur Park, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, “The Wire,” Explicit Ills and Requiem for a Dream will find parts of Life Is Hot in Cracktown to be similarly engaging.
Actors Shannyn Sossamon and Victor Rasuk, playing a couple struggling to keep their marriage together while caring for their sick baby, seem to have been picked for their physiques over their acting chops in a somewhat gratuitous storyline.
But some of the acting overcomes the film’s shortcomings: Glamorous, gorgeous Kerry Washington seems unbelievable at first as a pre-op transsexual prostitute addicted to intravenous drugs, until she imbues the role with head-on force and deep-seated feeling. And young Ridge Canipe, playing Douglas’ son who essentially must take care of himself and his younger sister, rises to the occasion as a pure soul in a film full of dark and troubled ones.