Lowlife (2017)

Director: Ryan Prows
Writer: Tim Cairo, Jake Gibson, Shaye Ogbonna, Ryan Prows, Maxwell Michael Towson
Cast: Nicki Micheaux, Ricardo Adam Zarate, Jon Oswald, Shaye Ogbonna, Santana Dempsey, Mark Burnham, Jose Rosete, Jearnest Corchado, Clayton Cardenas
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2018

El Monstruo (Ricardo Adam Zarate) is a full-time luchador who never takes off his mask. Not even when he’s at home with his girlfriend Kaylee (Santana Dempsey), who is expecting their child. Kaylee’s adoptive father Teddy (Mark Burnham) is the local crime lord. He is ruthless and El Monstruo is his enforcer, desperately ignoring the extent of Teddy’s crimes. Crystal (Nicki Micheaux), on the other hand, desperately needs Teddy’s help: her husband needs a kidney and Teddy may be the only one able to get her one that fits. Meanwhile Teddy’s accountant Keith (Shaye Ogbonna) picks up his friend Randy (Jon Oswald) from prison, where he spent the last decade, taking the fall for Keith, and he finds Randy a changed man indeed. In a rather explosive fashion, their stories come together at the motel Crystal runs.

For some reason, I expected Lowlife to be a comedy. It is not. In fact, it’s pretty hard and very dark, despite a couple of funny moments. Once I had adjusted my expectations accordingly, I was very impressed by the film.

The film poster showing the main characters of the film.

Narratively, Lowlife is reminiscent of Pulp Fiction with its different narrative strands and the way the characters all come together in the end (and also the violence). But while it may work in a similar fashion, it really isn’t a copy of Pulp Fiction, but manages to be its own thing – which is not that easy to achieve, especially since PF is so influential. It manages because it has nothing of the self-indulgent nudge-nudging that most of the Tarantinoeque films have.

To work with all those different threads, characters need to be established quickly so that you can start rooting for them before the next thread is tackled. It is here that the film is at its strongest: the characters are vibrant and relatable (at least most of them) that you feel like you know them in just a few short minutes.

Jon Oswald, Nicki Micheaux and Santana Dempsey in the film.

I also liked that the film doesn’t shy away from the politics. Choosing a luchador as one of the protagonists is already a pretty bold statement for a USAmerican film, but it doesn’t stop there. It also takes apart ICE as the deeply corrupt organization that it is. And at the root of it all, there is a sad, dark and serious story. I think it was that that kept me from being able to see the film as a comedy – despite obviously funny parts like the entire character of Randy.

I am not entirely enthusiastic about the ending and the passing along of the mask, but it didn’t bother me overly much. Apart from that, I enjoyed the film. It’s well-paced, has a good soundtrack and most importantly: it keeps you engaged and with the characters always. It could have been that felt tired, what with the many tarantinoesque movies that already exist, blood and crime included, instead it is entertaining and fresh.

Ricardo Adam Zarate in the film.

Summarizing: Very good.

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