Occasionally, they leave the nicotine-washed confines of the tattoo joint to go home to their hideous suburban bungalows, complete with alcoholic parents and blaring TVs. Doug at least has a sister (Brooke Langton) who expresses some concern, even if she’s basically a closed-up loser herself, and he has a talent for painting that gives him solitary comfort. The lads also hit the club scene from time to time, usually running into a flaky Japanese friend (Masaya Kato) and some kind of trouble. One night, they pick a fight with hotheaded skinheads, leading to dire consequences.
The skins start prowling near our gang’s hangout, which means multiple slo-mo shots of their muscle car sidling by, backed by an ominous synthesizer drone. It’s effective the first four or five times. Repetition is pic’s biggest sin. Inserts of a tattoo gun piercing flesh, for example, become monotonous quickly.
Dunsay’s desire to break up the action is understandable, since it largely consists of palaver, most of it familiar from every other entry in the “Mean Streets” sweepstakes. But his attempts to leave the chat chamber aren’t always successful: A long, statically shot seg in which Jerry meets the black drug lord (Djimon Hounsoun) who’s hounding him feels like it’s been dropped in from another movie — one designed to play on the racial anxieties of a white audience.
Helmer stirs the pot in other spots, too, as when a female skinhead makes an increasingly whipped-up speech about how America is going to the dogs (even as her b.f. is delivering drugs). These forays are intriguing, but they’re not held together by any clear p.o.v. Similarly, Doug’s paintings don’t illuminate the pic’s emotional terrain, as might be intended.
Tech credits are just about up to the job, with alternarock soundtrack a definite plus. Some trimming is called for, especially since unnecessary time shifts compound the blurring of both narrative and character.