November 25, 2018

Starring Jim Hill, Stu 'Large' Riley, Rhonda Ross Kendrick, Andre Walker. Directed by Paul DeSilva. (1990/92 min).


Review by Fluffy the Fearless😾

Though completed in 1990, this grassroots crime drama is only-now seeing the light of day. A lot has changed since then, such as the inner-city crack epidemic the entire story centers around. Hence, what was timely 28 years ago has more-or-less rendered Crackdown Big City Blues a period piece.

Writer-director-producer Paul DeSilva has since passed away, so he never got to see this obvious labor of love get a proper release. A shame, really, because DeSilva's heart was in the right place when he made this, drawing from personal experience of seeing the effects of crack on his own community.

But while DeSilva's message and sincerity are admirable, the movie itself is a disjointed, heavy-handed mess. Home-movie production values and amateurish performances are the least of its problems. Much of the time, Crackdown Big City Blues wavers uncomfortably back and forth between social commentary and gratuitous action, often with little or no transition.

"You traded our cow for "magic" beans?"
We may admire the film's "crack is wack" mantra, but it's repeatedly delivered with the subtlety of a hammer, shouted by a variety of angry non-actors, as if sheer volume makes the message stronger. The rival drug kingpins are little more than clichéd composites full of chest-thumping bluster. In fact, we learn little about any character beyond their names and which side they're on.

Worst of all, the pacing is terrible. Most scenes seem to go on forever, long after we've gotten the point. The final act descends into an unintentionally funny showdown - with martial arts suddenly thrown in! - exacerbated by glaring budget limitations and an auteur whose ambition exceeded his abilities.

Because of DeSilva's admirable intentions, I really wanted Crackdown Big City Blues to be one of those overlooked gems from a director who never got his due. Instead, it's plodding, preachy, poorly executed and not nearly as relevant as it would have been three decades ago.

INTERVIEW with Co-Producer Frazier Prince


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