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Gang Tapes works perfectly as a minimally plotted study of lost teenaged souls; it also feels like an informal rebirth of Italian neo-realist cinema. There are no "name actors" in the film. There is no hot young rapper, no comedian, and no heartthrob to look at. Instead, Gang Tapes offers a cast of mostly non-actors performing with gusto. If you're hoping Gang Tapes will "let you off the hook" with wall-to-wall, watered-down pop tunes, forget it. Gang Tapes' soundtrack is hardcore rap, which perfectly accentuates the equally rough-edged events. With a digital camera recording all of the goings-on, there are no Ophulsian tracking shots or lengthy Steadicam moves -- only a handheld look at the brutal concrete jungles of South Central Los Angeles. In Gang Tapes' world, all Hollywood presuppositions are thrown to the wind: even the nice guys get killed.Read more ›
The film, which will be unfairly compared to The Blair Witch Project (more on that later), is a stunning pseudo-documentary that takes the viewer on an enlightening, enthralling, intense, and often horrifying journey. Gang Tapes opens with a white family, on vacation, videotaping their trip to Southern California. Suddenly, the are attacked in their rental van, and suddenly, the camera is in the hands of the carjackers, still taping.
The camera makes its way into the hands of a 14-year old gangsta wannabe, Kris (Trivell) who, after acquiring the camera, proceeds to tape everything in his life. The camera becomes a window into his life. It records conversations with his mother, violent beatings, the loss of his virginity, drive-by shootings, drug deals, and all the other episodes that made up the fabric of Kris' existence.
Though some might accuse it of being episodic, that is what life is; a series of episodes strung together. Several aspects give this film its gritty realism. First, the razor-sharp editing by Tina Imahara is relentless. One forgets that this is a film because it truly feels like we are moving from one episode in Kris' life to another. Second, the film does an incredibly effective job of conveying violence. The viewer feels the punches. The gunshots are remarkably lifelike. When people get shot, you do not think that you are watching squibs and blood packets.Read more ›
Lest you think I'm being uncritical in my praise, you should know that I thought "Boyz N the Hood" was overrated and sugar-sweet, and that I thought "Menace II Society" was the closest cinema was ever going to get to the streets. But "Gang Tapes" comes from a different reality than either of those films. You watch it in awe, because nobody seems to be acting, nobody seems to be directing... indeed, nothing seems to be being filmed. There is a scene where there is a home invasion and one of the women in the house is raped. I looked around the empty room I was sitting in, as if I had inadvertantly become a party to a felony.
But, you ask, what is this movie ABOUT? What happens in it? What am I walking into?
Trust me, it's better not to know. I walked into this movie cold, knowing nothing but what I got from the advertising blurb. Read the back of the DVD, and plunge in like I did. You will not regret it.
I can't stress this any more: if you love cinema, you owe it to yourself to see "Gang Tapes." And yes, if you told me that an hour and thirty minutes ago, I'd have laughed heartily at you.
This isn't a gold mine. This is a cache of platinum.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
good movie.. Hard to watch believing that this type of stuff goes on. I can't imagine having to grow up and live that way.Published 1 month ago by Carlg
A gritty movie that shows the dark reality of an average gang member in Los Angeles. Although a bit exaggerated, there are many scenarios in this film that can and have occurred... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Javier A Romero
Being from South Central myself, I didn't appreciate this documentary at all. In my opinion, it is a weak reflection of what life was really like down there.Published 5 months ago by Harry