American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Matty Rich was 17 when he started to make "Straight Out of Brooklyn," and is only 19 now. I put those facts right at the top of this review because originally I was not going to lead with them; this is a strong, good film, and I thought if I mentioned the director's age, that would seem like condescension.
But then I thought - no, hold on, this is astonishing news, that a 17-year-old kid from the Brooklyn housing projects, with no backing and no money and no rich family, could actually make this film and get it released. We read all the time about "disadvantaged urban youth," but here is a firsthand report from the front lines.
The movie covers a few days in the lives of a high school kid, who lives with his sister and his parents in a project. The story begins with brutal frankness, as the father, drunk, beats his wife and throws things around the apartment while the kids cower in the next room. In the morning, surrounded by the wreckage of their few possessions, the young man determines that this cannot go on any longer - that somehow he has to change the course his life seems set on.
During the day he hangs out with a couple of friends, and they begin to talk about the possibility of committing a crime. One of the friends (played by Matty Rich himself) suggests that maybe they could get jobs in a relative's gas station. But the hero is too angry and impatient for that, and when his girlfriend suggests making something of himself in college, his angry reply is that he doesn't have four or five years to spend in college. And besides (he tells her, as they look across to the Manhattan skyline), does she think the rich people who own Wall Street got there by following the rules? Not likely.