Riot In The Streets
Originally a Showtime original movie, Riot In The Streets tells four separate but overlapping stories set in and around the Rodney King riots in L.A. The first story, "Gold Mountain," concerns a young Asian American teenager sickened by what he perceives as his father's weakness, as well as the racism that he and his family experience constantly in South Central L.A. The second vignette, "Caught In The Fever"written by Joe Vasquez, the talented but troubled filmmaker who made Hangin' With The Homeboys before dying of AIDS a few years lateris about a trio of Latino teenagers who get caught up in the looting of their neighborhood; it follows them as they move from joyous celebration at the initial anarchy to horror and revulsion as they come to realize the devastation and destruction the riots have wrought. The third segment, "Empty," stars Luke Perry as a conservative and mildly racist cop who has the misfortune of being on duty immediately after the not-guilty verdicts are delivered. The last and weakest entry is "Homecoming Day," in which human mannequin Mario Van Peebles plays a successful businessman who returns to his old neighborhood to visit his mom, and is confronted by looters looking to demolish the liquor store his father died defending during the Watts Riots. Although the last segment is heavy-handed and unconvincing, the first three are tremendously powerful portrayals of the pain and desperation that inspired the riots. It's remarkable that the filmmakers are able to show the complex socio-economic forces that made the riots inevitable, without sacrificing narrative force or entertainment value.