Based on the 1993 best-selling novel by Buddy Giovinazzo, LIFE IS HOT IN CRACKTOWN shows the gritty, hard realities of a neighborhood, as well as the struggling, proud people who attempt to survive. The intertwining stories come together in a powerful climax of love and salvation, showing that despite the obstacles of life in the inner-city, humanity and hope can still prevail.
The damaged lives on view in Life Is Hot in Cracktown
exist in a corner of urban purgatory, where disconnected stories slither through roach-infested streets. The different strands include a teenager (Evan Ross) climbing the ladder of the thug life; a transgender prostitute (Kerry Washington) and her sensitive beau (Desmond Harrington); two small kids being raised by a careless mother (Illeanna Douglas); and a couple (Victor Rasuk, Shannyn Sossamon) trying to make it honestly, and failing. Director Buddy Giovinazzi based his script on his own 1993 collection of stories, and he certainly doesn't skimp on the unpleasant detail--something like A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
, another gritty drama based on its director's own literary work, looks positively happy-go-lucky by comparison. Unfortunately Cracktown
also begs comparison to an array of TV treatments of similar subjects, where it comes up noticeably short. The cast is full of decent people, including Lara Flynn Boyle for a single puzzling scene. Whether you ever wanted to contemplate gorgeous Kerry Washington as a transsexual or not, she gives a typically committed performance, and her scenes with Harrington actually summon up some degree of tenderness. The rest of this grueling direct-to-DVD exercise requires a high level of tolerance for the grimier side of druggie existence, of which there is a great deal on display here. --Robert Horton