Shaye Obgonna

Lowlife

lowlife

El Munstro is the latest in a long and proud line of famed luchadors. While El Munstro had always been a symbol of hope for the Mexican people, this El Munstro works for his thug father-in-law named Teddy who meddles in underage prostitution and organ harvesting. Crystal is a recovering addict. She struggles with running her motel while also trying to keep her alcoholic husband alive, with Teddy’s help. Keith is Teddy’s accountant who picks up his best friend, Randy, from jail. Except Randy walks out of the prison doors with a giant swastika covering his face. These people don’t have much in common, but their worlds are about to collide.

This is director Ryan Prows’ first feature film, which he cowrote. The film was also written by Tim Cairo, Jake Gibson, Shaye Ogbonna, and Maxwell Michael Towson (Towson being the only one to have written a feature length film before). Lowlife is broken into different sections, allowing you to get to know each of the main characters. The segments are titles “Monsters,” “Fiends,” and “Thugs.” People will immediately be reminded of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, mostly due to the way the film is broken into separate subplots that all intertwine. While that connection is justifiable, Lowlife seems to take that concept and perfect it. The individual stories for each character feel complete, and with each segment more and more is revealed. The filmmakers designed it so the audience can understand more about what is happening with each segment, while also showing what is happening from different points of view. When the different subplots finally come together, it makes the climax of the film all the more intense and enthralling.

What pushes this film beyond being a typical suspenseful (sometimes comedic) drama with a bunch of unsavory characters is how much heart this film has. For the most part, all of the characters are truly horrible people. Yet, somehow, the filmmakers still make you care about what happens to them. The character arcs also show some interesting changes and growth from beginning to end that isn’t normally seen from these types of characters. There are also so many layers, not only to the plot but also to each character, that show no one is perfect. Each individual just tries to live their life the best they know how to.

The multidimensional characters would not have been as fascinating without the work of some fantastic actors. Ricardo Adam Zarate (Deadly Films) makes his feature film debut as El Munstro. This character speaks entirely in Spanish and is never seen without his luchador mask on. Zarate perfectly portrays how El Munstro straddles the line of being the noble fighter he believes he is, and the somewhat unstable madman he truly is. The way Zarate is able to emote through the luchador mask is also outstanding. Nicki Micheaux (The Shield, Animal Kingdom) shines as motel owner Crystal. Micheaux’s performance stands out because she brings the most heart and emotion of all the characters. It is impossible to watch her performance and not feel a strong sense of empathy for Crystal. Jon Oswald (Mata Hari, Boomerang Kids) plays the now ex-convict Randy. As soon as Randy appears on the screen with a swastika on his face, audiences will expect to hate him. Surprisingly, the writing combined with Oswald’s performance make Randy the most enjoyable character. He is funny without trying to be, and he is probably the only one of the characters who could be considered a wholly good person, despite what his appearance would suggest. Finally, there is the character Teddy, played by Mark Burnham (Wrong Cops, Hidden in the Woods). Burnham’s look in the film at first seems over-the-top, but his performance of the despicable and soulless Teddy brings all the flash and color back to earth. All of these actors, as well as one not mentioned here, will make you remember this film.

This is not a horror film, yet I am still writing this review for it. It may defy being placed in any one genre, but I would say it is mostly a thrilling crime drama with comedic elements. After watching this film at the International Horror and Sci-fi Film Festival, it was clear to me that I couldn’t see it without spreading the word about it. Lowlife gives a riveting snapshot into a world filled with criminals, yet it chooses to focus on the good within that deranged world. It weaves through multiple different plot lines, then sews them together seamlessly by the end of the film. The entire cast is outstanding, the writing is phenomenal, and it is incredibly well directed. If the fact that I wrote a review for this film on my horror site doesn’t make it explicit enough, let me make it more clear: go see this film.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10

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