Film-Forward Review: [BOMB THE SYSTEM]

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Directed & Written by: Adam Bhala Lough.
Produced by: Ben Rekhi & Sol Tryon.
Director of Photography: Ben Kutchins.
Edited by: Jay Rabinowitz.
Music by: EL-P.
Released by: Palm. Country of Origin: USA. 93 min. Rated: R.
With: Mark Webber, Jaclyn DeSantis, Jade Yorker, Al Sapienza, Bonz Malone & Joey Dedio.
DVD Features: Interviews with consulted graffiti artists LEE, SEMZ, & BONZ. Extended & deleted scenes. Outtakes. Behind-the-scenes footage. Trailers. Poster of the main character's tag.

The shaky tightrope of a plotline goes something like this: While Anthony (Mark Webber of recent Broken Flowers and Dear Wendy fame) was a boy, his older brother turned to graffiti as an ennobling response to life in the boroughs. After his brotherís death at the hands of the NYPD Vandal Squad (who are apparently barely human, what with their use of coke, racism, sexism, endless aggravated assaults, and such), Anthony picks up the cans and markers of his brother's work and becomes known as Blest, his brother's tag. As the first five minutes of clunky exposition will tell you, it's "paint or die."

Once Blest and his friends Buk 50 and Lune get the street recognition they thought they wanted, they hatch a plucky scheme to fulfill Blest's brother's old dream of tagging the Brooklyn Bridge to reach graffiti immortality. Will they succeed? Will the prospect of a college scholarship deter Blest from fulfilling his brother's goal? Will his girlfriend's equally idealistic (though far less symbolic) activism give him a better outlet to articulate social ills? Will no one put an end to the NYPD Vandal Squad's killing spree? Will directors and cinematographers ever learn that the overuse of digital video and time-lapse photography do not make a film seem "real" and "edgy," but rather "contrived" and "hard to sit through"? Will people ever stop making nostalgic and cloying idealizations of 1980s street culture? (I'm looking at you, Basquiat.)

DVD Extras: It's really a toss up here. On one hand, the DVD refreshingly refuses to include the gamut of DVD staples like overproduced featurettes, unnecessary commentary tracks, still galleries, and storyboards (though it does include multiple trailers). But on the other, very little of what's available is worth watching. The many deleted scenes were clearly omitted for good reasons, and the "behind-the-scenes footage" is 20 random minute-long shots from an alternate DV camera. The scene of Buk 50 and Blest's older brother responding to the questions "Is what you do art?" and "What do you think of people who sell their art to galleries?" is about as interesting as the questions are subtle. The DVD also comes with a small poster of Blest's name in a graffiti-style font, so you can relive the magic without even watching the film.

The one worthwhile bonus feature is the interview with the graffiti artists who made the film possible, if only because it shows that the ridiculous idealism of the characters is actually a fairly accurate portrayal of the real people. It also explains the movie in great detail, with quotes like, "No one was acting because everything was just happening, you know?" And when bomber Bonz Malone, who plays a NYPD officer, says to his interviewer, "That's a nice watch you got there. What kind of watch is that? Yeah," it is clear he is intoxicated. Zachary Jones
October 17, 2005



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