Monday, December 22, 2008

Mixed Blood

The Action Mutant…
says life is alright in America, if you are white in America. (yes, a musical reference by TAM!)

Mixed Blood

review by Joe Burrows

Ummm...Merry Christmas?

The Plot, as it was:
Marília Pêra stars as Rita LaPunta, a Brazilian matriarch of an army of street kids that push her drugs in the Alphabet City neighborhood in Manhattan. Her hold over her only biological son Thiago (Richard Ulacia) is almost incestuous, as she fawns over him & seemingly controls every aspect of his life. That is until the high society girlfriend (Linda Kerridge) of Rita’s German drug supplier (Ulrich Berr) falls for Thiago & wants to experience gang life herself. Couple that with the rival Latino gang that’s working with other forces to bring Rita’s Mateceros down and you have a situation that even a Menudo party couldn’t solve (and Rita loves her some Menudo!).

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
The underrated greatness of Mixed Blood lies not only in its grass roots production style (i.e. there isn’t much production to speak of) but in its sheer audaciousness in looking at the supposed realities of urban life. I say “supposed” because while the film boasts the look of an eye opening expose into urban plight, its really a darkly funny, gangland melodrama in the grand tradition of 70s exploitation fare. It’s a Dickensian nightmare that involves Latin music & crack…and given its writer/director (Paul Morrissey, Andy Warhol’s main director), is probably told by someone on the stuff. How else do you explain the scene where the neighborhood addicts line up on the street & order their drugs as if they were at a cafeteria (“Coke or Heroin?”)? Or where a rival gang member is lured into a sexual tryst (on a mattress in the middle of an alley…classy), only to be run down by a car driven by some Mateceros while on said mattress? Nothing is ever on an even keel in this one, which also includes the acting. One of Morrissey’s trademarks is using amateur actors in his productions and that results here in some interesting performances. Marcelino Rivera (as ex-cop/co-conspirator Hector) goes into profanity laden histrionics seemingly at a moment’s notice, which goes ditto for Angel David as Juan the Bullet. However, the two can’t hold a candle to Ulacia, who’s yelling of EVERY SINGLE LINE in an almost unintelligible manner, reminded me of pro wrestler The Great Khali. Oddly enough (as many message posters have mentioned), the fact that his character is slow in nature is strangely belied by the constant bellowing (“I DON’T LIKE IT!”). The absolute center of the film is Pêra & she gives a show that is deserving of that distinction. As LaPunta, Pêra is charismatic, sensual & all around amazing in taking what could be a one-dimensional coke lord and making her a fully fledged, enigmatic force of nature. Like many villainous characters, she ends up strangely likable despite using her “kids” as her own personal army & her tenuous grab over Thiago. Everyone can empathize with capitalizing on a dream and doing anything to keep that dream a reality (which is probably why a similar film in Scarface has maintained its popularity all of these years). Her performance keeps the film grounded when it seems like it should fly off the rails & gives odd moments (like the scene in the Menudo store) an eerily charming resonance to them. Right up to the final bloodletting, her imbalance between sweet mother figure & ruthless tyrant makes the imbalance the film has between the real and the surreal all the more mesmerizing.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- John Leguizamo is a Macetero during the basketball court beating (in his first film role).

Body Count/Violence: 24. Though it wears its low budget squarely on its sleeve, Mixed Blood manages to be quite visceral when it needs to be. Many a gangbanger is shot down in bloody fashion, as well as being stabbed (both by knife and in the neck via a needle), run down by car, beaten down, thrown off roofs, etc.

Sexuality/Nudity: None.

Language/Dialogue: All of these kids must have been watching Tony Montana before filming began because the F bombs (among other words) are dropped with great frequency.

How bad was it?:
There aren’t many reviews on Mixed Blood as not many people have seen it (6.0 based on 160 votes on IMDB). Viewer feedback skews very wildly, with people either appreciating its exploitive nature or not caring for it. Personally, I think some people weren’t in on the joke.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
AMLF & Sara Films, a French production company, produced Mixed Blood and distributed it through Cinevista. It was released in America on 10/18/85 on a limited basis. No box office or budget records are public.

Film: ***1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ****/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

1 comment:

David Matheny said...

I just watched this movie for the first time last saturday, 6/7/14 , and i enjoyed the movie. I thought the begining was a little corney but by the end i was hooked. I also enjoyex your review and think it is spot on. Good deal.