Director: Ryan Prows
Starring:Nicki Micheaux, Ricardo Adam Zarate, Jon Oswald, Shaye Ogbonna, Santana Dempsey, Mark Burnham USA. 1h 36m
From the unusual opening and until it’s bitter ending, everything about Lowlife blew me away! It’s a slow amble through the seedy side of Los Angles, connecting 3 reprobate lives together as they struggle against the same foe but for very different reasons. For some it might take some time to get into the aesthetic and bat shit crazy characters, but don’t fight it just go with the flow and the movie will take you places…. Places you might not want to go..
Lowlife works as a disjointed homage to a few lively characters who each deserve some sort of Folk Hero status. Jumping around through the timeline incorporates each person deeper into it’s whirlwind plot, a black motel keeper Crystal (Micheaux) who’s an ex addict and her drunken partner, a man on the verge of giving up on life but who needs an emergency kidney transplant. Then there’s a sly gangster Teddy ‘Bear’ Haynes (Burnham) who runs a violent gang profiting from immigrants organs, the kinda guy who’s legendary amongst the worst f the worst on the streets and his loveable henchman ,El Monstruo (Zarate) who’s on a mission to protect his heavily pregnant wife Kaylee (also an addict). But the stand out are a couple of best friends Keith (Ogbonna) and Randy (Oswald) a couple of cons whose brotherly bond is spun into contention over Randy’s unusual prison tattoo.
Blessed are the Meek
You’ve probably never seen a movie like this, apart from maybe Pulp Fiction. Unfortunately it’s hard not to discuss one without the other, Tarintono was eager to be on set and took lots of selfies with the cast and crew at the opening, eager to see the next generation of his Tarantino-esque genre.But whatever Pulp Fiction is for 90’s cinema, Lowlife is doing for 20’s cinema. Both are really unique and fresh, filled to the brim with dark laughs and a raw look at the wrong side of the tracks. The moody retro aesthetic helps put the movies in a place of our childhood memories, while giving us something to look to the future for. Whatever worked in Pulp is amplified in Lowlife, the laughs will be harder providing violence makes you chuckle, the sorrow more heartbreaking and somehow the characters just that much more bizarre.
Quinten Tarinto attended a screen in 2017 and took selfies with the cast and crew.
When trotting the camera around a seedy makeshift morgue and brothel, the bold narrative includes a stark comment on the life of immigrants living under the radar and becoming vulnerable to gangs who want to harvest organs and use people who can’t turn to the law for help. There’s this brooding sense that more can be done, but when El Monstro, the saviour of Mexican people is working for the man enslaving them, there’s a lot about this folk hero which isn’t quite right, but he’s one of the more intriguing of the bunch. Always masked and seemingly embroiled with superhuman powers, he prays at a shrine to his father, the last Monstro and goes into some kind of killing trance when angered. While the ending is really his time to shine, there’s a colourful Quinceañera that he attends, just to pick up some money but things go awry and the scene ends with a gory caved in head, a crying teenager and El Monstro coming around from his most recent trance. Prows manage to keep the gore to a minimum, but when it’s present it’s usually right in the face and hangs about for a while.
“The lineage of El Monstruo must never be broken!“-Randy
Piece by piece we see new characters introduced into the mix, then we rewind and find out who these people are and how/why they got into the pickle they are in, most of the time it’s desperation, the picture painted of LA is one of little to no hope, but it’s easy to see why Randy (Oswald) managed to pick up the most attention of his role of a peace loving poetic villain, who, while doing his time in prison managed to find safety in an ayran group and to show his dedication he has a giant swasi tattooed on his face. Unfortunately the rest of the world doesn’t understand that the inner Randy is just a sweet guy, but luckily he finds some solitude with his life outside of prison.
Lowlife is riveting from the outset, and gives a hi-res snapshot into a world filled with grime and criminals, but manages to focus on the last silver lining in the few decent souls that try to get by. It weaves in and out of the street legends, both heroes and monsters, and patches them together as they ride the waves and fallout of their life decisions. It’s terrific and crafted so well, both it’s polaroid cinematography and unique unpredictable way of dealing out it’s story, and earmarks the arrival of an exciting new film maker. Lets just hope he keeps his originality and raw talent, I can see this being the beginning of a new cult following.
Related: Narcocorrido (2011), Pulp Fiction (1994), Polar (2019), The Greasy Strangler (2016)
Lists: Not Quite Right Vol 1