Movie Review: Cut Throat City

Whew boy, I haven’t written out a review on here in quite some time. What better way to return to form than with a movie I’ve been waitin’ for for YEARS? Anyone still reading my blog? If so, thanks. Let’s see if I remember how to do this.

Cut Throat City.

Directed by RZA. Written by Paul Cuschieri.

Four score and seven years ago, my friend Demi (you know her if you listen to our podcast) showed me the trailer for this movie. A heist movie starring Shameik Moore (this was before he went on Twitter to let us know he had lost his mind) with a supporting cast of Eiza Gonzalez, T.I., Wesley Snipes, Terrence Howard, and Ethan Hawke? And directed by RZA?! I was immediately hyped. Then I waited for a release date for what felt like forever, until one fateful day when it showed up at a drive-in theater I had never been to. And it was my birthday. Happy birthday to me, right?

Unfortunately, the movie couldn’t live up to the hype I had built up for it in my head. In fairness, it had been a couple years, and every time I remembered the movie I got more excited. That’s not to say the movie is bad. It’s definitely…decent. 

Let’s talk about these characters:

Blink: Our protagonist, played by Shameik Moore. Putting aside my annoyance with Shameik’s social media antics, dude can act. Blink is one of those characters who repeatedly makes questionable choices, but you can’t help but want him to win in the end. Also, his friends don’t have a lot of characterization going for them, so he’s carrying a lot of these scenes.

Miracle: Picture Demetrius Shipp Jr.’s performance of Tupac, but subtract the social awareness that comes with playing Tupac. Miracle isn’t stupid, but it seems as though he only exists to cause more trouble. Also, Demetrius sounds just like he did in All Eyez on Me, despite now playing a character from New Orleans.

Junior and Andre: Played by Keann Johnson and Denzel Whitaker (who it turns out is NOT Forest Whitaker’s son! I was shocked too!) respectively. I’m putting these characters together because between the two of them they don’t have a whole lot going on in terms of characterization. They’re likable, though, so they have Miracle beat in that regard.

Demyra: Blink’s wife and the mother of their son. Unfortunately that’s pretty much the extent of her role in this movie. All of her scenes and actions are motivated by what’s going on with Blink. But hey, Kat Graham does well with what they give her.

Cousin Bass: Our villain, played surprisingly well by T.I. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising, because Cousin is basically an evil T.I. He’s got the T.I. vocabulary and all that. Also, it’s a little confusing because Cousin appears to be the name he goes by, but he’s also the cousin of one of the main characters. That’s a questionable creative choice, or I just missed something. Also, one of Cousin’s weapons of choice is a raccoon. I’m not joking. I’ll leave you with your curiosity about that.

The Saint: Terrence Howard comes in at a certain point late in the game to say some lines that are vaguely ominous and very overtly religious. But hey, Terrence Howard has been kinda scary to me since I first saw him in Big Momma’s House when I was seven. First impressions, right?

Lucinda Valencia: Lucinda is the standard “good cop surrounded by bad cops”. On one hand, this is probably the most grounded character I’ve seen Eiza Gonzalez play, but on the other hand, the idea of good cops requires more suspension of disbelief with every passing day.

Jackson Symms: The shifty white dude who drinks a lot. But also, he’s more sympathetic than a lot of the other characters? That’s partially due to the extensive story he’s given in comparison to everyone else, and partially because Ethan Hawke is just that good.

Also, Wesley Snipes is in it. 

Finally done with the characters!

Part of the appeal this movie had for me since the trailer came out is that I’m always here for more exposure of how badly America handled the Katrina situation. Because our country has apparently been a mess forever. That also helps the story stand out from the other heist movies out there. Ironic that this movie isn’t called Hurricane Heist and that movie has nothing to do with Katrina. I assume it doesn’t. I didn’t watch it. Did anyone?

Anyway, I do have my share of problems with the story. It feels like it drags at times. Also, all these characters have connections that range from deep to tenuous, which makes the movie feel a little like that Pepe Silvia scene from Always Sunny. I feel like the movie didn’t need this many moving parts. For example, one antagonist seems to only be in the story as a means to deal with another antagonist. With all that said, the movie isn’t too complex to follow, and most of the characters aren’t too annoying to deal with. Even the friends who don’t have much going on are generally enjoyable when they’re on screen.

I’m also not a huge fan of the ending, or more accurately, the lead up to the ending. I don’t mind how the movie ended, but there’s a bit of a bait and switch before it that just felt frustrating when it was all said and done. 

RZA did a good job of making this movie feel authentic. I can’t speak to the authenticity of New Orleans specifically, but the story feels believable from the big picture standpoint. RZA and Cuschieri put the focus on the reasons for the heist more than on the heist itself, and that allows this movie to stand apart from others in the genre. That ultimately helped it out. 

Was it worth the two years of hype? Not exactly, but I’m still glad I saw it. 

tl;dr: The movie is a little weighed down by superfluous characters, but the performances are strong overall and the story is grounded in a reality missing from most heist movies.

Rating: 7 out of 10

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