April 5, 2018 Lowlife (Movie Review)
Bringing together a cast of bizarre yet amusing dregs of society, the comedic Crime-Drama, Lowlife, made its New York premiere on Sunday, April 1st, 2018 at the WHAT THE FEST!? before arriving in theaters and On Demand Friday, April 6, 2018, thanks to IFC Midnight.
In Southern California, a motley crew of bizarre personalities are about to be brought together under the most ridiculously-fated circumstances. First, there is sketchy Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Officer Fowler (Jose Rosete: Dead Bullet 2016, The Walking Dead: Red Machete series) who is making a series of dubious arrests at a small motel, owned by hoarder Crystal (Nicki Micheaux: The Shield series, Lincoln Heights series). Then there is the rag-tag duo of fresh-from-prison Randy (Jon Oswald: Boomerang Kids series, Mata Hari series) and his best friend Keith (Shaye Ogbonna: Racist Siri short 2012, Boomerang Kids series). The somewhat deranged irony here? Randy is sporting a gigantic swastika tattoo across the entirety of his face (yes, his face!), and bestie Keith is African-American.
Adding to the cavalcade of chaos are El Monstruo (Ricardo Adam Zarate: The Disillusion of Pretty Butterflies short 2015, On My Block series), a proud Luchador and savior of the downtrodden, along with his heroin-addicted, pregnant wife (Santana Dempsey: Megachurch Murder 2015, Scandal series). Then there is Dan (King Orba: 3:10 to Yuma 2007, Roman J. Israel, Esq. 2017), an alcoholic desperately in need of a kidney, who also happens to be Crystal’s husband. Bringing all these upstanding characters together is Teddy “Bear” Haynes (Mark Burnham: Wrong Cops 2013, Hidden in the Woods 2014), a Miata-driving loan shark-cum-pimp who is also dealing in the black market human organ trade, all under the guise of his taco stand.
What does it all mean? Well that, my friends, is where Lowlife comes in, tying all these personalities together with a gigantic red bow, some drugs, a couple whores, and a shotgun to the head. Clocking in at 96 minutes in-length, Lowlife was directed by Ryan Prows (Narcocorrido short 2011, Boomerang Kids series) and is a feature-length debut for this talented director. The film was written by Prows and Actor Ogbonna, along with Tim Cairo (Racist Siri short 2012, The Remember Hour series), Jake Gibson (Blacks for Romney short 2012, Boomerang Kids series), and Maxwell Michael Towson (Blacks for Romney short 2012, Non-Committed series).
Billed as a Comedy Crime-Drama, Lowlife is definitely this, a kind of ludicrous mixture of half-baked crime and drama that is at moments laughable, while offering a never-wavering intensity throughout. In this sense, it falls into a similar vein to Tarantino’s 1994 cult-classic, Pulp Fiction. In fact, the films share some similarities, including some truly gruesome deaths and a perfectly non-PC sense of humor. Be warned!
The ensemble cast here all do wonderful work in their highly varied and oft absurd roles. Leading the pack are Micheaux as Crystal, the kindly motel owner who allows a large population of illegal immigrants to call her property home; Zarate as the intense Luchador, El Monstruo; and Oswald, as Randy, who is, let us face it, largely comedic relief. Micheaux brings a level of humility to her role, perfectly portraying a wife who is struggling to keep herself and her dying husband afloat but still trying to attempt to generally do what is right.
As El Monstruo, Zarate brings an intensity to his role that is commendable, considering the majority of his face remains hidden behind a red and gold mask throughout the entire production. In the film’s beginning, he delivers a monologue – in Spanish, no less – that is fierce and sets the tone for his character’s dignity and self-respect, despite the fact that he is wearing a robin’s egg blue suit (complete with bolo tie) and that Luchador mask. As previously stated, Oswald is perfect in his role as comedic relief, a scrawny White boy running around with a swastika tattooed across his face and hellbent on returning home to Compton.
All in all, Lowlife is an enjoyable, if wild little ride through a world of crime and desperation that, hopefully, none of us will ever experience. Thanks to its stellar acting, wonderful script, marvelously eclectic characters, and Director Prows’ unique approach to the subject matter, Lowlife is perfectly comedic in all the most twisted and deranged ways. There are gruesome deaths, some blood splashed on the walls, all leading to the myriad of characters coming together in a triumphant grand (or grande!) finale.
Certainly not intended for the easily-offended, Lowlife takes the dregs of society and weaves a tale that makes for some amusingly unique viewing. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Lowlife 4 of 5 stars.