illtown

For his third feature, director Nick Gomez (Laws Of Gravity) has set out to reinvent the drug movie—and, from the lower-case title to the tiniest symbolic detail, he has roundly succeeded in elevating it to new levels of pretentiousness. Trading in his gift for capturing the random, shapeless lives of would-be crooks, Gomez takes on a style that mimics the experience of being on narcotics: The actors' movements are painfully lethargic; their line-readings are muted and cryptic; and their bodies dissolve in and out of sight with the frequency of a Star Trek episode. Michael Rapaport, Lili Taylor, and Kevin Corrigan star as moderately successful heroin dealers working the Miami Beach club scene. Their operation begins to unravel when a former partner (Adam Trese) named Gabriel (yes, like the angel) gets released from jail and takes his revenge. Rounding out the cast are Isaac Hayes, as a police contact/spiritual advisor right out of A Life Less Ordinary, and the hilariously stilted Tony Danza, whose smooth-talking kingpin is like a cross between Don Vito Corleone and Hugh Hefner. Somewhere behind the obtuse affectations of illtown, there's a good movie about young people stuck in a business they're not ruthless enough to manage. The three leads, especially the uncommonly restrained Rapaport, look anxious to break out of their imposed metaphysical stupor and give real performances. Too bad Gomez, formerly the brightest son of Mean Streets, thinks he's making Wings Of Desire.

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