Review: ‘Dark’

Strange, moody pic limns the world according to "Dark," an aptly named young man whose precarious hold on his life is slowly loosening. Debuting scripter-helmer D.A. Bullock maintains an uneasy tension quivering with the potential for everything to suddenly spin out of control. Winner of Best Feature award at Urbanworld.

Strange, moody pic limns the world according to “Dark,” an aptly named young man whose precarious hold on his life is slowly loosening. Debuting scripter-helmer D.A. Bullock maintains an uneasy tension quivering with the potential for everything to suddenly spin out of control. Winner of Best Feature award at Urbanworld, pic boasts an unusual mix of edgy macho posturing and collegiate angst that should score well with fest auds and prove a strong contender for indie cable.

Bullock, who has a background in music videos and made the shorts “12 Minutes” and “Rome,” imaginatively mixes sub-genres: A street savvy, gritty tale from Chicago’s South Side is crossed with a quasi-experimental slide-into-madness case study, producing a twilight zone in the hood that confounds ethnic stereotypes.

After the recent death of his grandmother, the last of his family, Dark (Jason Bonner) feels aimless and depressed, no longer capable of keeping the various parts of his life working congruently. His grades at the U. of Chicago are slipping, yet he cuts classes. Calls from corporate creditors clutter his answering machine while he subsists on insufficient sleep, instant noodles and health food supplements. He stops seeing his warm, caring girlfriend (Elizabeth Isibue) because he doesn’t have the strength to confront her and discover whether his irrational jealousy is warranted.

Equally alienated from neighborhood parties and local drug doings, he tags along with his friends, Troy (Vince Green), a laid-back pimp and sometime dealer, and Dewey (Sonny Coleman), an ex-con who has acquired genuine wisdom but hasn’t fully figured out what to do with it.

When he races a fellow courier on his bicycle messenger job, Dark stops his bike on an unexpected, nearly suicidal detour. Suddenly, the anger behind Dark’s melancholia and the reason for its suppression start to surface. Fragmented flashbacks reveal deep-rooted trauma in Dark’s childhood as he hits bottom with a violent act of rage that seemingly comes out of nowhere.

Far from disguising pic’s hi-def roots, Bullock and cinematographer Jeffrey T. Brown use tiny flashes of video distortion (snow or digital intermittence) to signal Dark’s sporadic hallucinations. Bullock also relies on traditionally filmic f/x — slo-mo, out-of-focus dream-states, or sped-up movement surrounding an isolated, stationary figure — to capture Dark’s nebulous interactions with the outside world.

Tech credits are solid.

Dark

Production

A Cheeseburger Films production in association with Bronzeville Filmworks. Produced by Brad Wells, Gregory B. Cooke, Allison Hunter-Williams. Executive producers, H.L. Misch, David Atkins, Sue Wells, David Hoffa, Craig Volpe. Directed, written by D.A. Bullock.

Crew

Camera (color, HDV), Jeffrey T. Brown; editor, Eric Lange; music, Patrick Yacono; production designer, Andy Mason; costumes, Dana Anderson; associate producers, Joseph A Turek, William Lewis. Reviewed at Urbanworld Film Festival, New York, Sept. 18, 2003. (Also at Toronto Film Festival --Planet Africa.) Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Jason Bonner, Elizabeth Isibue, Vince Green, Eugene Long, Sonny Coleman.

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