Downtown: A Street Tale

2007, Movie, R, 103 mins

Review

DOWNTOWN: A STREET TALE
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Written by actor Joey Dedio and directed by Rafal Zielinski, whose credits run largely to horror films and sex comedies, this well-intentioned drama about homeless young people on New York's mean streets features some fine performances but is undermined by muffled sound and the material's overall familiarity.

Twenty-seven-year-old Kick (Dedio) has had a rough life: He saw his mother murdered and has wasted years in a drug-induced haze. But he's been clean for a year and has become the unofficial head of household to an ever-changing cast of throwaway kids who share a squalid squat in Lower Manhattan. They include renegade rich boy Hunter (Chad Allen), who's HIV-positive and has a nasty heroin habit; gentle, deeply damaged Maria (Flora Martinez), who's just taken up with Hunter; high-strung Ashley (Rachel Vasquez), who wants to be a celebrity but hasn't gotten further than stripping at a seedy club; sweet-natured, mentally challenged Tito (Johnny Sanchez), who fled home when his mother took up with an abusive man; gay Lamont (Jeremy Richards), who wants to be a hairdresser; and self-destructive Raquel (Mihaela Tudorof), rstranged from her Romanian family and trying to outrun her unhappiness through promiscuous sex. The squats' two newest arrivals are small-town Texans Billy (James Ransone) and Cheri (Domenica Cameron-Scorsese), who need a crash course in street smarts if they're going to last long enough to make it to Los Angeles. Billy intends to be a musician, but unbeknownst to him, Cheri is four-months pregnant and deeply worried about what the future holds for her and her baby. The fixed point in all their lives is social worker Aimee Levesque (Genevieve Bujold), who runs a walk-in center called Haven House and is determined to give all of them every chance to make something of their lives, if they're willing to. Over the course of a few days leading up to Christmas, three of the troubled young people fall victim to drugs and violence, two are able to go home, one is lured into the world of pornography, and another makes a tough decision that could change her life for the better; the rest continue to muddle through as best they can.

Veteran actress Bujold's powerful, unaffected performance is the anchor that keeps the film's episodic subplots from spinning off into chaos; the other names in the cast — Jon Savage as a crippled drug dealer, Burt Young and Lillo Brancato as strip-club sleazes — merely drop in for cameos. The younger actors bring varying degrees of experience to bear on their roles, but all capture the desperation beneath their characters' tough fronts, while the NYC locations are suitably depressing. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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