Friday, December 2, 2011

One A Week Reviews #48: Prince of Broadway

This is one I warmed up to. A kitchen sink drama of the first order that I reviewed for DVD Snapshot, this is a refreshing change of pace.

Prince of Broadway
Official Synopsis:
Prince of Broadway is the story of Lucky (Prince Adu) and Levon (Karren Karagulian), two men whose lives converge in the underbelly of New York's wholesale fashion district. Lucky, an illegal immigrant from Ghana, makes ends meet by soliciting shoppers on the street with knock-off brand merchandise. Levon, an Armenian-Lebanese immigrant, operates an illegal storefront with a concealed back room where counterfeit goods are showcased to interested shoppers. Lucky's world is suddenly turned upside down when a child is thrust into his life by a woman who insists the toddler is his son. While Lucky copes with his new domestic dilemma, Levon struggles to save a marriage that is falling apart. The seedy side of the wholesale district is revealed through a journey that continually confronts the interplay between what is fake and what is real.

Set in the shadow of the Flatiron building and soaked in the colorful bustle of Broadway, the film is as much a brutal drama as it is a tender comedy, revealing the lives of immigrants in America seeking ideals of family and love while creating their own knock-off of the American Dream.

Our Take:

A low-budget, slice-of-life relationship drama about two different New York City hustlers and the families they create, Prince of Broadway practically feels like a documentary. A collection of belligerent hustlers muddle through trying to get ahead, all the while arguing. There's even fighting in traffic. Feeling improvised and free-form, the film is centered in the claustrophobic back room of Levon's store and Lucky's dirty rented room. There's an oppressive hopelessness to the characters' homes and workplaces that, from the very start of this movie, might make you reconsider watching. It's hard to root for being “aspirational” here. Even Levon's relatively well-appointed (but tiny) apartment is depressing. (Perhaps it's because I'm not a New Yorker. I'm used to space and occasional quiet.)

Prince of Broadway is made in a Cinema Verite style with a documentary look and improvisational feel. The actors aren't always strong, many aren't even trained, but generally convey honesty. With a slightly improved feel, conversations feel authentic, but none are ones you'd want to have. The film is very reminiscent of the Paul Morrissey directed Andy Warhol films Flesh and Trash, just without the drag queens. However, while the film is earnest, it starts out grating and boring and winds up engaging. This is strong material that is rewarding in the end, but also feels too much like a day full of bad busy day spent around unlikeable people.

Special Features:
Prince of Broadway is presented with 5.1 or 2.0 Dolby Digital English audio and two commentary tracks, one with the director and the other with the producer and two of the actors. The trailer and a nearly hour-long behind-the-scenes and interview featurette “Meet the Hustlers” are included.

Price of Broadway means well. An earnest, sometimes humorous, and nearly “mumblecore” story of a motley crew of New Yorkers, it's grating and “indie.” It also is surprisingly watchable, but you'll have to decide in the end if they're capturing the bustling spirit of New York or just being exhausting.

Overall Picture:
Movie: B-
Extras: C+

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