Sucker Punch

A film so down-and-dirty that digital color bleed can only enhance its rawness, "Sucker Punch" happily wallows in sleaze. This tale about a crackhead pimp who briefly finds Jesus, only to lose him again, is not for the faint-hearted. Funniest at its most horrible, or maybe vice-versa, this extremely black comedy is a kind of gangsta "Candide."

With:
Mike - Paris Campbell Rhonda - Christina Caparuola Lamar - Will Sierra Dibbs - Greg Nice Ray - Juju Lou - Psycho Les Ivan - Lev Gorens Maroni - Jason Madera

A film so down-and-dirty that digital color bleed can only enhance its rawness, “Sucker Punch” happily wallows in sleaze. This tale about a crackhead pimp who briefly finds Jesus, only to lose him again, is not for the faint-hearted. Funniest at its most horrible, or maybe vice-versa, this extremely black comedy is a kind of gangsta “Candide,” populated by a soulless collection of lowlifes (portrayed by a gallery of hip hop artists) and one naive loser with an improbably rosy outlook. Unlike a classy sex-and-violence étude like the Cohen brothers’ debut “Blood Simple,” the Crook brothers’ bow lacks all redeeming social niceties and boasts still less technical polish, but will be properly appreciated as a subversive variant on the gangsta movie by that genre’s target audience. An auspiciously wry roll in the gutter is had by all.

Mike (Paris Campbell) “recruits” runaway girls for a prostitution ring by slipping them mickeys. He’s got a hooker girlfriend, Rhonda (Christina Caparuola), whom he’s sweet on, and weaves romantic fantasies about their living happily ever after, blissfully unaware of her cynical burnt-out disinterest.

Having impulsively made off with a suitcase full of his boss’s money, he’s beaten, stabbed and left for dead by a couple of cops in his main man’s employ. However, Mike is saved by a matched pair of young Republican Christian soldiers who want to adopt him, despite their puzzled disappointment over his lack of near-death white-light experiences.

At first, Mike blows them off, but a subsequent crack- and storm-induced Jesus-sighting soon has him finding religion and being trotted out by his whitebread saviors as a “trophy” black convert to their peculiar form of Calvinistic preordination. He’s next seen delivering takeout for a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant while earnestly proselytizing the very whores he once recruited.

Mike’s interference with business bugs his former boss, Lamar (Will Sierra), who decides on a suitably damning punishment: Decked out in gold lame, Mike becomes the stable’s newest and lowest-paid male prostitute, nervously pacing in the bathroom asking Jesus to walk with him before facing his john.

“Sucker Punch” is awash in blood, though most of it is cleverly gushed just off screen, except for the final, all-fall-down shootout that gives Mike a heroic panache that’s inevitably short-lived. Sex, on the other hand, is all pervasive, if never particularly erotic. Tech credits are suitably gritty, particularly the madly worked-on music track, featuring a score by Wendell Haines and cuts by most of the cast.

Sucker Punch

Production: A Maiden Voyage production. Produced by John Scaccia. Executive producer, Howard Schaller. Co-producer, Angela Grant. Directed, written by Joshua and Jeffrey Crook.

Crew: Camera (color, digital video), John Barrett Ashmore; editor, Robert Hammer; music, Wendell Haines; production designer, Lori Crook. Reviewed at Urbanworld Film Festival, New York, Aug. 10, 2002. Running time: 80 MIN.

With: Mike - Paris Campbell Rhonda - Christina Caparuola Lamar - Will Sierra Dibbs - Greg Nice Ray - Juju Lou - Psycho Les Ivan - Lev Gorens Maroni - Jason Madera

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