Holla at Me

holla-at-me.jpgThere’s that old cliché that says you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, which, for all intents and purposes can be applied to DVD packaging. Take for example the packing for a little film called Holla at Me. If you were to judge this film by poorly designed box art you might come away thinking that it was nothing more than a low-budget “urban” action tale complete with gratuitous violence and sex as thuggish gangstas throw hot lead and babygotback hootchie mamas shake their booties. In the most simple of terms, the box art for Holla at Me makes the film look like an unwatchable piece of crap that is a total and complete waste of time. And while the truth is not too far off, the cover packaging actually does the film a disservice by making it look like something it is not (there’s no sex), and from my point of view worse than it is (although it is very bad).

Ty Jones stars as Joe Price, part of an elite team of hitmen. The film opens with Joe carrying out a mission, accompanied by his best friends since childhood, Tommy (Constantine “Connie” Taylor) and Tyrone Smith (Miguel Lopes), and starting what appears to be a mental breakdown. It seems that Joe has seen too much violence, and it is all starting to take a toll on him as he is haunted by visions of his past victims coming back for revenge. Joe’s deteriorating sanity leads to drama between him and Tyrone, and eventually between Tommy as well. As the plot drags along like some poor bastard with two broken legs and a severed arm, Joe gets crazier and crazier, fleeing ghostly apparitions of his victims and having conversations with a hallucination of himself. Will our hero be able to regain his sanity, or has he gone so far that there is no hope of return? More important, who cares?

Having seen more than my share of films like Holla at Me—ambitious attempts at making a movie despite glaring deficits in resources and talent—it never ceases to amaze me how bad flicks like this can be. In the defense of Holla at Me, the film has better lighting than many, and the picture is always in focus. Likewise, Ty Jones seems to have had acting experience beyond doing a play in high school.

On the flipside, where the film’s negatives grossly outweigh the positives, you have the rest of the cast who range from not-that-good to downright terrible. The supporting cast features brief appearances by actors who’ve appeared in everything of Goodfellas to The Sopranos, but this does not bring any real legitimacy to the film. The gunplay is disappointing, punctuated by obviously fake, computer-generated muzzle flashes, and the sex/nudity that is hinted at on the packaging is never delivered. (Come on, couldn’t we even get one pointless scene at a strip club?) Finally, writer-director Patrick Jerome’s script is just a clunky mess. I’ll give Jerome points for trying something a bit unconventional (at least within the confines of “urban” films), but he never makes it work. The film’s pace is sadly anemic, and manages to drag out 101 minutes from a story that could be told in about seventy-five.

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