illtown - C-
Viewed Jan 21, 1998 at Village East

illtown is a mess. Whether this is because the money ran out halfway during production and director Nick Gomez scrambled like mad to salvage something watchable out of it; or because the screenplay was misguided to begin with, I cannot tell. It starts off as a fairly run-of-the-mill drug tale with some appealing touches -- Dante (Michael Rappaport), Micky (Lili Taylor), and best friend Francis (Kevin Corrigan) are fairly laid-back suburbanite drug dealers. (They drive Volvos, of all things.). Then an old friend Gabriel (Adam Trese) comes into the picture, seeking vengeance for some past wrong; and Dante's life begins to spin out of control. While this is fairly routine, it certainly could have made for a meaty picture.

Except that Gomez throws in an allegorical subplot which only renders the movie completely senseless. Is he an avenging angel serving God (Isaac Hayes!) or the demonic gay drug baron D'Avalon (Tony Danza, who almost managed to make me forget how bizarrely miscast he is)? Is he attempting to save Dante, or simply blow him away to a pulp? I don't think even Isaac Hayes could figure out the answers to those questions. Gomez also imposes a fairly complex structure, with several flashbacks and dream sequences, which only serve to make the material even more opaque. Heck, for all I know, the entire film could be Dante's heroin-induced paranoid hallucination. Instead of shedding light on the characters, the whole thing only ends up making illtown seem like the pretentious student film Gomez had to get out of his system.