I started to review this movie as if I was an actual reviewer. As if I had on my ascot and was smoking my pipe, sitting in an uncomfortable chair in my study. Honestly, I thought for a moment that A) I had to make it seemed like I knew what I was talking about and that B) I don’t know what “B” was going to be, but I was going to sound like a pretentious prick and if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a prick.
“Cut Throat City” is a drama, directed by well-known music producer, RZA, who directed the oh- hell- yeah martial arts movie, “Man With the Iron Fists”, executive produced by Quentin Tarantino. It was because of that movie, and my love of RZA’s musical genius, that I sat down to watch this. I hoped that with his involvement, this wouldn’t end up being like your traditional desperate broke youth turning to crime to fix their problems, kind of movie.
But that’s exactly what it is. If you’ve seen “Boyz In The Hood”, you’ve seen this.
Despite that, this movie isn’t terrible. It’s set not long after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, and you come to realize that we don’t see many movies shot with this backdrop. Four friends, Blink, Miracle, Andre and Junior are broke, the storm makes them more broke and they’re running out of options. Blink is the main character. He’s married, jobless and is trying to help raise a young child. He has lofty dreams, however, as he wants to have his graphic novel published. After a meeting that doesn’t end so well, ends not so well, Blink takes this time to gather the troops to see if they’d be keen on partnering up with local tough, Cousin Bass, played by Tip “T.I.” Harris.
Harris is a scene stealer plain and simple. When we first meet him, it feels like a page straight out of “True Romance” when Clarence went to pay Drexl a visit. T.I. plays it very similar to Oldman, and it’s here, that “Cut Throat City” starts to reveal its cracks. The dialogue wants to snap, wants to sizzle, wants to leap off of the page like every character in “True Romance”, but it just doesn’t. It’s clunky in many places and never feels quite right. There’s a way to write menacing dialogue, and this was not it.
As of right now, this movie has a Rotten Tomato score of 70% with the critics. This is complete bullshit. Nothing about this movie deserves 70% except maybe the score, which RZA had a helping hand with. The characters’ motivations are barely there. Heists are barely planned out but are wildly successful* (asterisk denotes more successful than not). It’s hard to feel their plight if we can’t feel the walls squeezing around them. Oh, we heard it plenty of times how broke they are, but it felt like they were crossing off boxes of a checklist rather than feeling like they were completely out of options.
There’s also a detective who feels the need to act tougher than she needs to and says wise-cracky lines wise-crackier than they need to be. Ethan Hawke plays a politician haunted by the death of his wife and Terrence Howard plays an old school New Orleans kingpin. All three of these elements felt thrown in just because. While they served the plot because their presence was tied to it, had they not been in there, we could’ve spent more time with the four friends to really feel their pain. Really feel that desperation.
I didn’t love this movie, in fact, I hardly liked it. I gave it a ton of chances, though, because RZA was involved. As a director, I don’t blame him for the poor writing. He chose this project, though, so he holds some blame. As a director, he did several really nice things. In the beginning, we get to attend Blink’s wedding. One of the friends, Andre, is an aspiring jazz musician. We know this because he tells his mom, who we have to assume, must have known, that he wants to be a famous jazz musician. Groan and double-groan. Andre starts blasting away on a trumpet while Blink and his new bride dance to just that. It was a beautiful moment and a great choice by a director to keep things simple.
In the end, “Cut Throat City” wanted very much to have the snappy dialogue of a Quentin Tarantino movie. It wanted very much to have intense scenes that are regarded as some of the best we’ve ever seen.
Sadly, it does not. It’s okay. The score is solid, especially in the heist scenes, but that’s not enough of a reason to lose two hours of your life that you’ll never get back, and you will definitely want them back.
Movies on Netflix to watch instead: “Good Time”, “Den of Thieves”, “Blue Ruin”