Rote indie drama redeemed by an actress

Downtown: A Street Tale

on April 20, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
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A collection of instantly recognizable Gen Y runaways are beset by the usual woes in this New York-set indie written by and starring Joey Dedio. His by-the-numbers story is lifted up by Genevieve Bujold's excellent performance as a social worker trying to help in plausibly caring and practical fashion. Arty cinematography also differentiates the material. Juxtaposing the characters' loftier aspirations, indicated by spiritual symbols and music, with their vices and sordid environment isn't original, but it's done well enough.

Often it appears as if the cast of Rent has decided to go legit and find religion; those who survive realize deep down they're sacred. You've got ethnic girls compelled to strip and whore; an HIV-positive punk disowned by his Park Avenue family; a stuttering, mentally challenged savant; and a pregnant 17-year-old fresh off the bus from Texas, guitar-strumming b.f. in tow. Hero “Kick” (Dedio) is their de facto den mother, working with Bujold's savior-in-the-system to keep them well—with mixed success, naturally, because he's battling multiple demons of his own.

We're asked to invest in too many characters; on the other hand, aside from Bujold, there's no one you want or need to know more about. Seen one street urchin turn a trick, shoot up or double-cross a fellow on-the-margins, you've seen ‘em all. Still, it would be a shame if Downtown was only remembered for its familiarity, or the cameo of Lillo Brancato—the Bronx Tale and Sopranos actor now awaiting trial for murder—as a pimp. Though not fully earned, the final Christmas Eve hopefulness is welcome. The lesson being: One shining performance can redeem an entire movie. Distributor: Slowhand
Cast: Joey Dedio, Genevieve Bujold, John Savage, Burt Young and Lillo Brancato Jr.
Director: Rafal Zielinksi
Screenwriter: Joey Dedio
Producer: Joey Dedio, Maria Rita Caso and Robert Ragland
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for language, sexual content, drug use and some violent images
Running time: 103 min.
Release date: April 20, 2007 ltd

Tags: JOey Dedio, Genevieve Bujold, John Savage, Burt Young, Lillo Brancato Jr., Rafal Zeilinski, street urchin, double cross, religion, HIV, pregnancy
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