Sunday, 16 July 2017

LOWLIFE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - A Luchador Thug in Tarantinoville at Fantasia 2017

El Monstruo worships a grand Luchador at a Holy Shrine!

Lowlife (2017)
Dir. Ryan Prows
Scr. Prows, Tim Cairo, Jake Gibson, Shaye Ogbonna, Maxwell Michael Towson
Starring: Ricardo Adam Zarate, Nicki Micheaux, Santana Dempsey,
Mark Bunrham, Jon Oswald, Shaye Ogbonna

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Luchadores, those glorious masked wrestlers of Mexico (popularized in the 20th century by the likes of El Santo and The Blue Demon) are emblematic of all that is good and evil - heroes and villains to the common man, performing great feats of gymnastic warfare in the ring and dazzlingly costumed in ancient Aztec tradition. Most notable is that the greatest artists amongst the lucha libre will, more often than not, never remove their masks. Once a luchador dons his public visage, he has a sacred duty to keep it affixed to his face forever.

In Lowlife, the dazzling feature debut of director Ryan Prowse, El Monstruo (Ricardo Adam Zarate) has a considerable legacy to uphold. His father was not only Mexico's greatest wrestler, but revered as a legendary freedom fighter. Too bad then that El Monstruo has been relegated to working as a waiter and low-level thug at a Taco Restaurant in Los Angeles, a business front for Teddy 'Bear' Haynes (Mark Bunrham), a scumbag gringo hoodlum who kidnaps illegal aliens for the purposes of illegal organ harvesting, baby-selling and prostitution.

El Monstruo has another problem. His pregnant wife Kaylee (Santana Dempsey) is a heroin addict and Teddy has designs on selling her baby once she gives birth. Kaylee's mother Crystal (Nicki Micheaux), who now runs a sleazy motel, was also once similarly afflicted and sold her child to feed her habit. Crystal pines for the daughter she never knew and watches Kaylee from afar. When Teddy hires two thugs (Jon Oswald, Shaye Ogbonna) to kidnap the luchador's drug-addled wife, they take her to Crystal's motel, a known drop-off and pick-up point for his nefarious activities.

Hell, vengeance and sacrifice are just round the corner. A climactic blood bath awaits.

Though Prows has borrowed a story-telling structure quite liberally from Quentin Tarantino and occasionally infuses the tale with dialogue of a similar nutty hardboiled kind, the film never feels derivative. The picture is brimming with touches that tantalize and delight; a grand monologue on the tradition of the Luchas libres that reveals a sweet, innocent recipient of the words and eventually yields a horrific act of violence, is a crime picture set-piece of the highest order. Prows is clearly in Tarantino's debt, but he wisely places most of the emphasis upon mad, operatic melodrama. The movie is as moving as it is grittily shocking and deeply, darkly funny.

Humanity ultimately rules the day in this sleazy world and though a luchador can only remove his mask in death, the legacy will continue if he makes his sacrifice in the name of all that is good and true. Such is the driving force of Lowlife and we are blessed with a film that allows us to soar.


LOWLIFE enjoys its World Premiere at Fantasia 2017.