Slam

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • R
  • Drama

Although it begins promisingly enough, with a documentary-like look at the options available to young African-American men who grow up in the "ghetto life," this visually polished film stumbles when it comes to actually telling a story. Gangly Raymond Joshua (Saul Williams) is obviously a talented young man -- all those shots of him thinking are the tip-off...read more

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Reviewed by Sandra Contreras
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Although it begins promisingly enough, with a documentary-like look at the options available to young African-American men who grow up in the "ghetto life," this visually polished film stumbles when it comes to actually telling a story. Gangly Raymond

Joshua (Saul Williams) is obviously a talented young man -- all those shots of him thinking are the tip-off -- who's grown up in the Washington, DC, projects. He deals drugs, but you know he's got a heart of gold: Not only is he verbally gifted, but he buys ice cream for a bunch of little

kids. Before you can say wham bam, his best buddy and protector has been gang-banged and Ray's behind is in the county jail for possession of marijuana. Needless to say, life inside is no picnic for the sensitive and pacifistic likes of Ray. His mere presence in a room seems to bring out

the beast in his fellow inmates, as though they can see that in his heart of hearts Ray is, gulp, writing poetry about their existence. Perhaps the film's most embarrassing scene is the one in which Ray manages to avoid getting his ass kicked by extemporaneously performing poetry in the

jail yard. Take that, Baudelaire. Ray's harrowing stint in prison makes him a preacher, proselytizing against the conformity of the thug life. There's no shortage of truth in the film's observations about a draconian criminal justice system that favors incarceration over rehabilitation, and it

features some striking visuals and standout performances among the supporting cast, notably Bonz Malone as Ray's protector in the slammer. But it often verges on the sanctimonious and histrionic, just like Ray and Lauren (Sonya Sohn), his writing teacher and lover. And that's before you factor in

the "cathartic" poetry slams: Whether you find them exquisite or torturous depends entirely on your taste.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Although it begins promisingly enough, with a documentary-like look at the options available to young African-American men who grow up in the "ghetto life," this visually polished film stumbles when it comes to actually telling a story. Gangly Raymond Jos… (more)

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