Throughout all the year’s people have been enjoying films, the heist genre has had many different takes on it. Whether it is the magical Now You See Me or the more stylish Baby Driver, there is always something exciting and exhilarating about the chase and seeing the protagonists on the screen pull of the big scoop. The reason this may be is because it is cinema escapism at its finest. It is a concept so far removed from our everyday norm, that we get sucked into the world of these people and the elaborate schemes they come up with.
But when this is based in the real world, the reality isn’t all glitz and glamour. And this is the tale of RZA’s third feature film, Cut Throat City. The Wu-Tang Clan member uses the backdrop of the fallout of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to set the tone of his film. Like a lot of heist films it opens with us being introduced to the crew, four friends from the ninth district of the area, who all fall on financial hardship following the disaster.
The crew is led by Blink (Shameik Moore), who throughout the film is shown as an artist who draws graphic novels, is flanked by his three childhood pals — Miracle (Demetrius Shipp Jr.), a small-time drug dealer; Andre (Denzel Whitaker), an aspiring jazz trumpeter and Junior (Keean Johnson).
Struggling to make ends meet in a New Orleans neighbourhood, the group make a tentative alliance with local gangster “Cousin” Bass (the rapper T.I.), but when things don’t quite go to plan and things start to unravel Blink and his friends have to go on the run. It is in this where RZA showcases his ability as a director treading the line between a political commentary and a fictional world of crocked cops and larger than life drug lords.
Even though only is smaller roles, the inclusion of Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes and Terrence Howard – the latter in particular really seems to embrace the role of the Panama hat wearing cocaine dealer The Saint – give the film a bit more star quality and gravitas. There are vivid moments sprinkled throughout the film, but the two hour run time does seem a little drawn out. However, the connection to a graphic novel artist and how the film concludes is very well executed.
As enjoyable as a ride as Cut Throat City is, and Blink in particular is a character that you want to invest in some of the narrative that RZA wants to get out is one of how racism was an ever-present – and still is – even in the wake of a huge disaster.
It may not be the most groundbreaking film, but Cut Throat City is an indication that RZA is starting to find his voice as a director.
Dir: The RZA
Scr: P.G. Cuschieri
Cast: Shameik Moore, Demetrius Shipp Jr, Denzel Whitaker, Keean Johnson, Kat Graham, T.I., Terrence Howard, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes
Prd: Nate Bolotin, Gregory ‘Slice’ Chestnut, William Clevinger, Lauren Craig
Music: Dhani Harrison, Paul Hicks
Country: United States
Runtime: 123 minutes
Dazzler Media presents Cut Throat City on DVD from 8th February