In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_sea_of_trees_ver5

The Sea of Trees

The Sea of Trees uses depression, cancer and suicide as manipulative devices to tug at heartstrings instead of offering even the slightest insight into the…

Thumb_dont_breathe

Don't Breathe

Don’t Breathe gets a little less interesting as it proceeds to its inevitable conclusion, but it works so well up to that point that your…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

Detroit Unleaded

Detroit Unleaded Movie Review
  |  

"Detroit Unleaded" was a great idea. A lot has been written lately about the city's depressed condition. Similarly, small storefront businesses run by immigrants in American urban ghettos have become standard hood movie tropes, but usually as experienced from the customer's side of the counter. This indie comedy aspires to take us into the heart of crumbling Detroit and behind the bullet-proof glass of a gas station/convenience store.



The trouble here is a lack of texture and urgency, despite a rapid visual pace that bounces around inside the convenience store and environs like the best movies in this subgenre, "Do the Right Thing", "Car Wash" and "Friday". There simply is no neighborhood personality here as vibrant as Chris Tucker's Smokey, or as believable in his lunacy as Bill Nunn's Radio Raheem. The filmmaker's cart is tugging frantically at a lazy horse.

That might be forgivable if the the romantic leads in the story, Sami (EJ Assi), the Lebanese-American heir to his family's gas station and Naj (Nada Shouhayib), a beautiful Arab-American cell phone store clerk, had explosive chemistry or greeted the obstacles to their courtship with something more than mild irritation. These are comely, personable kids, but a friend of mine summed up their general mall greeter affect by saying, of Assi, "He's good looking enough to be in a movie. Wait, he is in one." The movie itself forgets, too, giving us tidily cute moments that suggest a decent NBC sitcom pilot.

Tension is what this movie cries out for—sexual, racial, cultural, class…. As a variety of urban types pass through Sami's store, director Rola Nashef offers only superficial evidence that their dramas and dilemmas crowd and exasperate this restless 20-something, who commutes from suburban Dearborn to the purgatorial job that forced him to drop out of college (!). There's also the under-explored thread of grudging affection between the mostly black strivers/hustlers/working stiffs and their Middle Eastern counterparts.

The film opens with a burst of suggested violence that further hints at a lot bolder, blacker (in the dramatic sense) comedy. A handgun even reappears as the classical tragic omen, but there's rarely any sense of real investment or vulnerability in Assi's performance. Underneath it all, Nashef hides a strong and worthwhile multicultural vision. It's just visible in this sketch of a movie, so I hope she comes back to it with real force and ambition (not just the commercial calling card variety) next time around.



Popular Blog Posts

Hollywood Gave Up on You: The Summer Movies of 2016

A look back at how this summer's best offering, Netflix's "Stranger Things," makes the failure of this season's block...

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Dirty Politics May Ruin Distribution, Oscar Chances of Phenomenal "Aquarius"

Pablo Villaça reports on the sad status of Brazil's government and its possible effect on a phenomenal new film from ...

The Top 11 Female Film Characters of All Time

All month, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists has been counting down the top 55 female film characters of all tim...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus