Description (from the IMDb):
Released from prison after three years, gangster Rudy Wright tries to takeover the L.A. Rackets.
Written and Directed by Andy Pressman
I love low-budget movies (obviously). You can do things, get away with things, and try things in a low-budget movie that no financier would ever approve. You can make a movie about, literally, whatever the hell you want. That’s the beauty of the low- and no-budget world: artistic freedom. However, just because you can do whatever you want doesn’t always mean you should do whatever you want. The limitation with films in this realm is that you really, really have to know how grand of a scale you can play on. You can’t make an outer-space sci-fi pirate movie on five thousand dollars, you can’t really make one on fifty thousand, and it would be tough to do even a decent one on five hundred thousand. There is a reason that so many films on my blog are either horror or comedy: these are genres that lend themselves to the restraints imposed by not having a lot… or much at all… or any money. One thing I learned early on in making movies for no money is that you have to know how much is too much, and what you can really afford to get away with.
ALLEGED GANGSTER RUDY WRIGHT is a black & white, guerilla-style crime drama shot on the streets of L.A. The story follows Rudy, a “white boy” in the crime world who gets three years for a bad drug deal, and while on the inside makes the contacts he needs to step up from hood rat to big shit. Once he’s back out he connects with his childhood friend Chico, and family friend Jimmy, and starts making a name for himself. Starting with intimidation and shakedowns, drug dealing, and your average low-level violence, Rudy works his way up and up until he’s dealing directly with the Mafia and the Mexican Cartels, all along the way making his fair share of friends and enemies. The story in AGRW is nothing new, or really any different than a ton of other crime dramas; most obviously like SCARFACE, it’s the chronicle of the rise, and eventual fall, of a criminal. What’s different about AGRW is that fact that it was made by just a few people with just a little money on the streets of L.A., and while this fact makes the movie unique, it also precipitates the film’s downfall.
There has to be some self-control when working in low- and no-budget films. I certainly appreciate the scale at which AGRW attempts to play on, but unfortunately the fact is you just can’t do a movie like this for a very small amount of money. To make a good gangster film, there are some minimums required. You need to have enough money to afford realistic guns and wounds to go with them, you need to have enough money to be able to fill your screen with all of the details that will sell a story like this to the audience, and you need to have enough money to fill your cast with very strong actors. AGRW does ok with the guns but not so great with the effects to go with, there are issues with the production design, and on the acting front there are some hits and some serious misses.
The production quality of AGRW is the first thing that gives away its budget. The film itself is mostly shot on what appears to be a lower quality digital camera set on auto focus. The picture itself is muddy, and there is no depth to the image in most of the shots presented, though I did enjoy the fact that it is a throwback to the old days of gangster films: in black & white. The camera work overall is solid, but not in any way exceptional enough to make up for the shortcomings presented by the quality of the video, especially in some shots where there are pick-up or stock footage obviously shot on an even lower quality camera, and some of the shots in the end that appear to have been shot on an iPhone turned the wrong way. More than just the camera, the production design really makes the budget level glaringly obvious; there are a slew of scenes in a all but deserted strip club, the police station is a barely dressed up living room or home office, and who does a “news” interview at night basically in the dark?
The script also presented some issues for me. First off, just swearing a lot does not make a believable gangster movie. AGRW has a big problem with what I call the “fuck-fuck-fuckity-fucks,” a heavy over reliance on dropping F-bombs just to make your characters sound “hard.” The dialogue also is peppered with clichés (“one final score” for example) that I have heard in every other gangster movie, ever. Also, the plot itself gets a bit muddled by about the mid-point of the movie, and by the end I found myself wondering what a lot of the scenes really had to do with moving the story along. For example, in about the last quarter of the film, Rudy meets with someone (?) who is looking to try and keep funding for something (?) involving “the kids,” and this is the first time that Rudy seems to give a crap about anyone other than himself, much less children. This weird tangent just really threw me off, and I was completely lost as to who this person was and what relation it had to do with the rest of the film, in which Rudy is trying to prove what a great criminal he is and how bad he is, and now we see that he’s actually a good guy?
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that AGRW is a horrible movie, or that I hated everything about it, because that is not the case. AGRW has many good things going for it as well, most notable the performance given by Pressman himself. For someone wearing so many hats, he does an above-average job of playing the lead too. Rudy is slick, conniving, underhanded, and all believably so. Sometimes Pressman goes a little over the top with overblown gestures and facial movements, but overall for someone that’s doing everything else he also puts in a pretty damned fine performance. Pillardo and Kauffman are also both quite believable in their parts as Rudy’s right hand men. I also really do admire the fact that Pressman shot so high on a movie with such a small budget; while I always feel like it is folly to try and do more than you can afford to do, I think Pressman really came pretty close. If someone would give this guy some money, a crew, and a script, I think he could make a truly awesome movie… but AGRW just isn’t it.
Overall, AGRW is too many big ideas on too limited of a budget to prosper. The film has a solid greasy underbelly going for it, but it just can’t quite get to that really dark and twisted space that a good crime drama deals in with the monetary constraints that hold it back. AGRW is one of those films where you can see the love of making movies, you can see the drive and the impetus for needing to put a story out there for the world to see, and you can really see the talent of the filmmakers, but in the end the grandiose nature of the span of the film becomes its downfall. I really do think that Pressman will someday make a great film – I can feel it peeking out from the shadows of AGRW – it’s just not quite here yet.
Overall 5 / 10
AGRW on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1544578/
AGRW is not for sale.
AGRW does not have an official site.