New in select theaters and digital download from IFC Midnight; help me out and pick it up on Amazon!
Directed by Ryan Prows
Written by Tim Cairo, Jake Gibson, Shaye Ogbonna, Ryan Prows, Maxwell Michael Towson
Starring Nicki Micheaux, Ricardo Adam Zarate, Jon Oswald, Shaye Ogbonna, Santana Dempsey, Mark Burnham, Jose Rosete, Jearnest Corchado, Clayton Cardenas, Olivia Benavides, Kelli Jordan, King Orba, Joey Puerto, Anna Pulido, Joaquin Smith
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While one can’t help but think of PULP FICTION while watching the dark crime thriller LOWLIFE, it’s not because of the obvious. Yes, it’s a film told in three chunks, focusing on different cast members, and telling each of their stories from different perspectives, but the real reason Tarantino’s classic film comes to mind is that LOWLIFE exudes the same type of excitement for cinema and vibrant, creative storytelling that made PULP FICTION such a sensation it was when it burst onto the scene.
Explaining LOWLIFE too much would spoil the whole thing, so I’ll try to be brief. One story focuses on a luchador working for a sex ring on the Mexican American border who is failing to live up to his legacy. Another focuses on a woman trying to get a new kidney for her alcoholic husband. And the final story deals with a crooked accountant who is picking up his friend as he is being released from prison only to find he has gotten a swastika tattooed on his face while in the pen. Somehow all of these stories intermingle, converge, and branch apart in the duration of this film in exciting and unexpected ways.
What sets LOWLIFE apart from the inundation of complex crime films of the nineties is the sheer amount of unique ideas, the eclectic cast envisioning them, and the sheer insanity of the way this film performs without a net. Anything can happen and it does in LOWLIFE. It’s a film that makes you feel like you’ve been on a rollercoaster by the time it ends. And the fact that all plot points and all threads are resolved by the end feels like an impossible task, but it does so in the most satisfying of ways. In fact, despite the fact that a whole lot of dark shit goes on, LOWLIFE ends on a rather positive and emotional note the indicates that all of this violence, crime, and debauchery were not done for naught by irredeemable people. You end up not only getting to know these characters making horrible decisions, but also rooting for them.
A lot of this has to do with the quality of this cast. Aside from WRONG COPS’ Mark Burnham who gives another amazingly mania laden performance as the crime boss Teddy Bear Haynes, you’re not going to recognize most of the cast. But this is a film that will make stars of the entire cast. Ricardo Adam Zarate is amazing as Luchador El Monstruo, a legend in the Mexican community who has fallen on hard times and now works for Haynes as hired muscle. His story is soulful and his comedic timing is perfect. Nicki Micheaux plays the beleaguered motel manager Crystal, who has the weight of the world on her shoulders, but still manages to muster up hope in the darkest of times. Santana Dempsey is a soulful standout as a pregnant mom struggling with addiction and trapped in an arranged marriage. And Jon Oswald steals every scene he is in as Randy and does the impossible by making you actually feel for someone with a swastika tattoo on his face. This cast is absolutely amazing from top to bottom, bringing these characters to life and making these off-kilter scenarios feel believable.
All of this hope shouldn’t mislead you. LOWLIFE is a violent, gory, and over the top celebration of carnage. It’s blood drenched and savage at times telling a complex story with impactful practical effects that will leave you wincing and squirming in your seats. But it’s the type of violence that sets a tone and fits into this shady world of lost souls and loose morals. One of the reason I love movies is that it takes me to places I will never go and through wholly original experiences. LOWLIFE is such a journey—showing that even in the most dire of situations and darkest of corners of society, there is still people to care for and stories that will surprise you. By any means necessary, seek out LOWLIFE. It’s truly a one in a million type of film.
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