LOWLIFE is the feature length directorial debut from Ryan Prows and stars Ricardo Adam Zarate (Deadly Sins), Nicki Micheaux ("Six Feet Under"), Jon Oswald ("Mata Hari") and Mark Burnham (Hidden in the Woods). The film intertwines three stories presented to the viewer from the eyes of a luchador wrestler, an addict, and an ex-con after an organ harvesting deal goes wrong.
To say I love this film would be an understatement as it's probably one of the best surprises to come out of the Fantasia Film Festival thus far. The film introduces to the audience three very fascinating characters; Teddy 'Bear' Haynes (Burnham), a con-man who's main focus is selling organs on the black market, a luchador wrestler and henchman to Teddy, El Monstruo (Zarate) who just wants to live up to his father's luchador legacy, and motel owner, Crystal (Micheaux) who desperately needs a healthy kidney to save her sick husband's life. The set-up of the movie closely resembles that of Pulp Fiction, combining violence in an over-the-top fashion with humor and a surprisingly healthy dose of heart.
This film wouldn't be what it is without the talent of the actors and the attention to detail and storytelling from Prows. Each character evokes a different type of emotion from the audience, ranging from sympathy, to anger, to sadness, to hate, to ultimately landing on sweet justification. For me, the real show stoppers of the film were Ricardo Adam Zarate, who played El Monstruo, and Nicki Micheaux, who played the motel owner Crystal. I found myself becoming emotionally attached to their stories while hoping that they would come out unscathed, but in a film such as LOWLIFE, no one comes out unscathed.
This is definitely a film that never falters or becoming boring as time goes on. I was intrigued by each characters background as their narrative unfolded, ultimately coming together into one storyline. In terms of violence, this film doesn't hold back, as there was quite a lot of bloodshed and dismembered body parts. However, in-between all that carnage was a fair amount of humor which seemed to fit perfectly with the tone of the film. The main person responsible for the comedic interludes was actor Jon Oswald, whose character Randy was just recently released from prison, with quite the parting gift.
Though I'm used to reviewing horror movies, this was an enjoyable and entertaining break from those films. Sure, there are some parallels between LOWLIFE and horror films of late, but there seemed to be a lot more heart to this movie that isn't often seen in it's contemporaries. Though the violence and bloodshed is raw and unflinching, the majority of the characters are desperately trying to even that out by doing what they consider to be the "right thing". This results in an interesting juxtaposition when you realize that what they consider to be "right" is still pretty unsavory, leaving the viewer unsure of how much they really should be rooting for these characters.
Overall, LOWLIFE is one of my favorite films from the Fantasia Film Festival. I loved the characters and was instantly drawn into Prows narrative surrounding them. Fans of genre films that incorporate a stylistic edge, high level of storytelling, top notch acting, and copious amounts of blood and dismemberment will absolutely fall in love with LOWLIFE. I for one most certainly have.
LOWLIFE had it's World Premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival on July 21st.