This film deals with the exploitation of troubled and vulnerable teenagers by shady characters for commercial gain in illicit back street bare knuckle fights: the youngsters end up as money making beaten up meat, still with an uncertain future. It is told partly in a voice-over by its protagonist, Will, a troubled and homeless teenager, as he is picked up from a juvenile correctional centre and housed by an older man driving a flashy car.
Bob owns a gym and makes money from promoting no-hold-barred bare knuckle fights in derelict warehouses, back street car parks, and places like that. There is a constant jockeying for position between Will and a sulking Paul, another boy in the house, also involved in street fights. A neat triangle is formed with the girl next door, Bebe (which actually means baby in Spanish), whom Paul described out of malice as “white trash”.
The mistake of the director/writer is that he is trying to make some serious points about teen exploitation in what ultimately comes out as a fight movie. The background story with Bebe just feels too clumsy and not very credible – feel free to reach for the remote and fast forward to the next fight or fall asleep until the sweet words are over, no-one is going to blame you! The fight themselves are brilliantly shot, the adrenalin freely flowing in large quantities, a very agile camera following the fights at close rank, the editing taut. I guess that these scenes would be very scary in 3D, indeed!
Gutter King is an attempt to explore some of the nooks and crannies of American inner cities underbelly to limited success. The film feels to be far too long, although it is not. It has far too many unnecessary scenes. A tighter screenplay could have worked wonders for it. It would have been a much effective movie if it had focused on one of the stories rather than uneasily switching from one to the other, with the result that neither is properly developed. The liaison with Bebe is particularly weak. The sexual motivations of the older man, Bob, is hinted at, but then that thread is left hanging out in the air.
There are very few films these days that are technically awful, Gutther King is not one of those as it has been competently shot and put together, it is visually arresting, the sound track is quite lively and mood setting, the camerawork is playful and agile, the sense of place (Orlando, Florida) is acute, and the editing is fast when the adrenalin needs to be pumped. The young actors are convincing.
Director/writer Keith Alan Morris USA 2010 96 mins Cert 15
Cast: Zeb Crown, Casey Clark, Erica Ramirez, Blake Logan.
DVD Release date: 26th April 2010
DVD RRP: £12.99
Distributor: Metrodome Distribution Ltd.
Image copyright the Metrodome Group