Graffiti artist chums grapple with lack of self respect and negligible opportunity in the energetic yet predictable drama "Quality of Life." Pic's cliched underlying story of restless youth plays as too naive for an older audience and too provocative for teens. Any theatrical action will probably come from overseas; this has direct-to-vid written all over it.

Graffiti artist chums grapple with lack of self respect and negligible opportunity in the energetic yet predictable drama “Quality of Life.” Setting aside the dubious strategy of presenting as sympathetic protagonists a couple of louts who champion the blanketing of San Francisco’s Mission District with intricately garish spray painted creations, pic’s cliched underlying story of restless youth plays as too naive for an older audience and too provocative for teens. Some limited fest play may be possible Stateside, but any theatrical action will probably come from overseas; this has direct-to-vid written all over it.

Mikey Rose (Lane Garrison) and Curtis Smith (Brian Burnam) spend their days painting upscale city dwellings for Mikey’s dad Pops (Luis Saguar) and their nights tagging everything they can as, respectively, “Heir” and “Vain.”

The marginally more soulful Mikey seems to be yearning for a way out, telling his exasperated father with the brash confidence of youth of his exploits. Curtis, meanwhile, is a loose cannon who lives with ad agency staffer Lisa (Mackenzie Firgens) and her mixed-race son Devin (Gerald Black), who likes taking extreme risks in pursuit of the next thrill.

After a series of adventures and relationship pressures, Mikey moves closer to realizing his dream of channeling his art into a career, while Curtis tragically goes off the rails with a ferocious intensity.

Clunkily played expository sequences are intercut with nocturnal painting sequences scored to molar-rattling hip hop and rock. This authentic-looking glimpse into an exotic world is OK as far as it goes, but lowbrow, selfish inarticulateness of protags limits empathy; auds would like these guys to make something of themselves, but they seem to be their own worst enemies.

First-time helmer Benjamin Morgan pays satisfactory attention to character motivation and detail. Perfs range from the level-headed maturity of Firgens, who starred in “Groove,” to Burnam’s pale imitation of Robert de Niro’s Johnny Boy in the infinitely more insightful “Mean Streets.”

Pic looks good and sounds better, courtesy of a raft of contempo tunes compiled by someone named “Count.” Title comes from California legislation that dumps graffiti in the same legal boat as drug use, prostitution, and anything else that smacks of urban blight. Pic won Special Mention runner-up prize for the youth jury of the 14plus competish section at the children’s film fest in Berlin, which rather ominously cited the film for “the extraordinary look it gave us into the drug and graffiti scene in the USA.”

Quality of Life

Production

A Summershines Prods. presentation of a Film Production Office production. Produced by Brant Smith, Benjamin Morgan, Meika Rouda. Directed by Benjamin Morgan. Screenplay, Brian Burnam, Morgan, from a story by Moran, Smith, Burnam, Tom Mullowney, Clay Butler, Aron Coleite.

Crew

Camera (color, Super 16-to-35mm), Kev Robertson; editor, Sharon Franklin; music supervisor, Count; sound, Brian Copenhagen. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (14plus Kinderfilmfest), Feb 9, 2004. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Lane Garrison, Burnam, Luis Saguar, Mackenzie Firgens, Frederick Pitts, Bryna Weiss.
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