Fantasia 2017: ‘LOWLIFE’ Review
The underbelly of Los Angeles and following characters who are constantly struggling to survive by barely scraping by can feel pretty stale for fans of crime films. The 90’s explored every nook and cranny of this courtesy of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and the films that tried to benefit off its success. On paper, you’d think that in 2017, a film like Lowlife where it follows characters who have some connection would be celebrating its 20th anniversary. Yet, Lowlife is a new film and it is one of my favorite independent films of the year.
I will admit that having a luchador as a character in your film will always grab my curiosity, you still need to have a good film to hold my interest. A luchador named El Monstruo (played brilliantly by Ricardo Adam Zarate), who is not as big as his father or his brothers and therefore feels like a failure to his family’s legacy, is working as muscle to his criminal father-in-law, Teddy (Mark Burnham), and blacks-out when he is enraged. His pregnant wife (Santana Dempsey), who has a drug history, threatens to run and take his baby away from him. El Monstruo wants his son to carry on the legacy in a way he never could. When his wife ends up missing, he tracks her down to a run-down motel. Everything that follows this involves every character in this incident and what got them to that point and what is to the follow.
Director Ryan Prows brings us a debut feature that feels like a potent mark on a budding career. Lowlife is confidently directed, which is not an easy feat dealing with some of its timeline and the multiple characters and how to make them interesting and mysterious enough that when the view switches to other characters, you will wonder what happened to the previous characters you were following or where they will end up. Zarate is a highlight as El Monstruo who comes off as being a loyal and dedicated man whose integrity and pride is important to him and the fact that he will do anything to mold his son to continue the legacy of El Monstruo. The other character who is a highlight is Randy, played by Jon Oswald. Both of these characters are constantly teetering on the comedic edge yet feel serious enough to not throw the film into cartoonish territory. These characters can be funny and bring some light-heartedness to some of the darker, more grim parts of the film – trust me, it gets dark at times. One segment, in general, has the potency to knock you on your ass.
As soon as Lowlife was over, I wanted to watch it again. That’s always a good sign for a film to last and I cannot wait to hear when it gets distribution and to tell more people about the film. I’m looking forward to putting this in my film collection.
Lowlife is a wild debut that needs to be seen to be believed.
Some stilted acting
Teddy, the main villain, could use some more menace