A perfect antidote to WASP infestation slashers, this feature pulls enough narrative folds to make Tarantino’s head spin but in doing so really evokes the horror, humour and bloody-minded hope of poverty. It is far more of a thriller than a horror film, the main 18+ focus being a couple of very gory set pieces that’ll demand your eyes and muddle your guts. But the reason you watch this film is for the characterisation and the warmth.
Acting, here, is routinely superb. This is actually quite a feat considering how outrageous the characters are on paper. Avoiding spoilers, one section focuses on a chap called Randy (Jon Oswald) who’s basically a criminal Eminemogram with a heart of gold and one Keith (Shaye Ogbonna), a mild-mannered accountant who is nevertheless nifty with his fists. Watching these two debate race while one has a large swastika across his face is a delightfully peculiar surprise with a fantastically surreal comic streak. The film is genuinely very funny in places, not least in the sections involving Ricardo Adam Zarat as El Monstruo, a never was who has let down his father’s legacy by being (comparatively) little but able to flip out, cartoon-style, should the need arise when hired as a local rent-a-thug, mask and alll. He switches between avenging angel and raving old ‘wrassler’ in a way that seems almost a photo negative of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride.
Lowlife manages to have heartfelt authenticity, too. Nicki Micheaux (as Crystal) manages to anchor the chaos to reality and emotional sequences about the real effects of poverty are made to first seem terribly strange and desperately sad then emotionally terrific when you realise how clever the editing is – you root for the characters because of what they’ve gone through and what they’re trying to do rather than what they’ve done. It is wonderfully written. They’re good people to whom fate has effectively flipped the bird. The simple fact that not all of the action resolves itself happily gives the film a level of emotional depth that stops the later stages from veering too much into farce, faux-feelgood or a ‘blaze of glory’ effectsathon. Visually peculiar though the ending is, it makes its own sense as well as being appropriate to aspects of the Mexican folk scene.
The lustre of Lowlife is that it doesn’t pull its punches but finds beauty and a curious humanity in the chaos of the crime-ridden city. Prow’s movie’s a sucker punch for daring filmmaking with characters that prove hope’s possible.
LOWLIFE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: RYAN PROWS / SCREENPLAY: TIM CAIRO, JAKE GIBSON, SHAYE OGBONNA, RYAN PROWS, MAXWELL MICHAEL TOWSON / STARRING: NICKI MICHAEUX, RICARDO ADAM ZARATE, JON OSWALD, SHAYE OGBONNA / RELEASE DATE: TBC