Tribeca Film’s NEON FLESH Premieres On Demand TodayFebruary 24, 2012
On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand and from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: NEON FLESH (Tribeca Film).
By Joe Charnitski
The gritty street drama that shines a bright light into the dark corners of crime and punishment has been a part of cinema since the beginning of movies. Warner Bros. built their studio on bold gangster pictures in the 1920’s and 30’s. Many cinephiles would credit Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS for invigorating the genre and spotlighting the common hoodlum over the mafia don. The 1990’s gave us Tarantino, and his many imitators, and just a few years ago the Italian film GOMORRAH received raves for its brazen depiction of modern Italy and the expendable, low-level thugs running its streets.
NEON FLESH is a new Spanish film that forces its way into the canon of down and dirty, rough and tumble, life on the street pictures. Its protagonist, Ricky, a 20-something hustler who’s only know life in the gutters, defines the film’s philosophy in a very early voice-over, which I’ll paraphrase: there are two kinds of people, those selling flesh and those buying. There’s plenty of flesh being sold in this movie, both literally and figuratively, but who’s buying and who’s not? Well, that’s what makes the story worth telling.
Ricky’s mother, Pura, is due to be released from prison any day now. She abandoned Ricky a decade earlier when she was working as a prostitute. Instead of holding a grudge and cursing her name, Ricky anticipates his mother’s release like they’ve always been the best of friends. He even goes to great lengths to save money (earned by selling drugs) and buy her a very special gift: a brothel. Not my first choice on Mother’s Day, but this isn’t your average family.
Ricky recruits his friend Angelito to help him acquire the women, fix up the real estate and get his bar/club/house of ill repute up and running. Angelito warns his young friend that the big boys of the local crime scene aren’t going to be too happy with his attempts to climb out of the gutter and into the upper reaches of perversion for profit. That’s their turf. The kid won’t listen. He’s doing it for Mom after all.
As the plot builds more than one crime boss comes after Ricky and his business, his first encounters with his mother after all of these years are not what he hoped for and he eventually finds himself in the middle of a war of revenge between local police and Chino, an underworld overlord who’s son was killed under suspicious circumstances. By the end, ala PULP FICTION, it’s amazing how everything is connected.
Writer/director Paco Cabezas succeeds on many levels with this film. There is a tangible energy and vitality to the cinematography and editing that forces you to take the thrill ride with Ricky and his friends, white knuckles and all. There are visceral moments of very satisfying high action, and some of the violence (much of it brutal, you should be warned) is very creative and fresh. That’s not easy in a world where twenty SAW pictures have been made.
There are also moments of sharp humor, and, it’s worth noting, the human element is not lost in all of the quick cuts, topless women and pools of blood. You might question the need for so many characters, but you’ll be more than happy to have met them when a little bit of their humanity peeks through the grimy curtain
If the film struggles at all it may be with maintaining a consistent tone. Sometimes Ricky and his friends appear as bumbling comic characters, but we can’t overlook the fact that they bought three frightened women in a dark warehouse and forced them into prostitution. The film is funny, dark, violent, touching, sexy and intense. Cabezas may not yet be a mature enough filmmaker to seamlessly tie all that together, but he gets a lot of credit for his ambition, and his film hits a lot more than it misses.
- Joe Charnitski
Joe Charnitski is a new contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. His career in film and television production, development and marketing has included stops at Miramax Films, Syfy and VH1. He currently works at a entertainment focused social media marketing agency in New York City. Twitter: @JoeCharnitski
Look for NEON FLESH (Tribeca Film) under your cable system's Movie On Demand section.
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