Movie Review: Gun Hill Road
Prinz Lee wrote this review 5 years and 5 months ago
Coming home from a lengthy term up North, an edgy, bitter and somewhat detached Enrique (Morales) returns to “The Boogie Down” (home), however, what he doesn’t expect are the changes that have taken place. One: An emotionally dismissive family—mainly his wife (Reyes) and son (Santana) and Two: The balls out efforts when trying to cope and do the right thing as his newly morphed family subtly unveil their new lives.
Battling the reality of a broken marriage, what eats at Enrique the most is the issue of his son, who not only has a secret life as a cross-dressing poet and/or lover, but also a transsexual in-the-making!
The film itself is pieced and presented in the grittiest of ways. I’m talking straight forward, raw and an uncut feeling from its location in NYC’s Gun Hill Road section of The Bronx, to the insecurities of actually being someone and going against-the-grain in a machismo infested existence within a predominately conservative Latino/Urban culture.
If there’s one thing I can say about this drama-infested film is when invoking the higher Gods of film as a whole, and seeking a powerful independent flick…this is by far one of the best I’ve seen to date! Director, Rashaad Ernesto Green goes there, humanoids! I mean he really goes there and clearly has a vision when getting the most of dialog and characters. Pushing as far as he was able to, the sense of reality in this gem of darkened beauty is precise and strong! He’s able to make the characters ooze through the pores of the actors’ skin, and lure you into the story itself. If you ask me, this is the magic of artistic filmmaking at its core and best!
Esai Morales owned Enrique and loses himself within the rough-around-the-edge look, style and divide between hustler and a father and husband trying to do what he feels is right. Never malicious in any way as he “means well,” but always in everyone’s face about how and why he’s right and they’re wrong.
Judy Reyes does a pretty good job as Angela. I can’t say she was as intense as the other characters, considering she’s more on a peripheral stance, but, yet, she still shines. Breaking down the love between a mother, a wife and departed mistress…the levels of her talent shine and folds away the goofiness we know of based on ‘Scrubs.’
However, now, if you really want to separate the actor from character…Harmony Santana, I thought was the film’s backbone. This woman really stood firm and toe-to-toe with two Hollywood heavyweights. For someone with very little experience, I think she stole the entire film…what a fucking talent! Dividing Michael and Vanessa was so amazing! Transforming from son, to poet, to lover and back…then battling daddy challenges and force-feeds surely put her on the map! I’m just going to say it. I truly believe this film will do for Harmony, what ‘Girl Fight’ did for Michelle Rodriguez…blow her the fuck up! You watch and remember you read it here first, people! Keep this girl on your radar for sure!
Director, Rashaad Ernesto Green is a man I became aware of early in 2010 during a talent scout “mission” I was on while viewing an awesome workshop (Directing Actors Gym). He was mentioned during a brief break by the organization’s owner (Filmmaker, Miles Maker), and was made aware of his shorts—which were airing as specials on HBO. I quickly checked out his work, enjoyed his style, researched him and the rest is history. I’ve been hearing about ‘Gun Hill Road’ for quite a while. If not via Facebook or Twitter…my peeps in “The Boogie Down” would mention it “Lee, they’re shooting a film in my hood titled ‘Gun Hill Road,’ do you know anything about it?”
The moment of truth has arrived, and I’m really pleased, taken and admirable with what Mr. Green—and there’s lots of it coming his way I bet—has done. A full length feature that may have some pretty common clichés, however, they’re deeply buried with such force behind his passion! Written by Mr. Green as well, levels of talent do not stop behind the camera or in the editing room—it extends onto a pad or a keyboard. The dialog was so crude and open, it was delicious! My sense of hearing almost reached orgasm—nothing like my home’s lingo and how it’s pieced.
My only concern is that those in other cities like Miami, Chicago, LA or Boston to name a few, may feel a little “lost,” but fuck it…it’s NYC, baby…take the heat, or get the fuck out of the kitchen! You have yours, we have ours!
In conclusion, much love and respect to Rashaad Ernesto Green and Co. for piecing a darkened tale of living and letting live—especially when one’s absence plays a role to a certain degree! (I’m really looking forward to what’s next from Mr. Green)