Weapons

Sundance Film Festival 2007 (World Premiere)Arguably one of the weakest films in the Dramatic Competition this year, Adam's Bhala Lough's “Weapons” is a violent crime film that rehashes familiar turf, better explored in numerous indies of the past 15 years.

Set on the mean streets of Los Angeles (rather than New York, as most features of this genre are), the yarn, also written by Lough, revolves around Reggie (Nick Cannon), a young, responsible African American about to have his first job interview. However, spotting a scar on his little sister's face, he becomes obsessed with finding a gun so that he can exact revenge and redeem the tarnished family honor.

Meanwhile, Sean (Mark Webber) returns home from his first year in college only to find his old, immature buddies Chris (Paul Dano) and Jason (Riley Smith) still playing basketballand getting into one fight after another. For leisure activities, they get high on drugs and try to seduce the high school girls.

Predictable turning point occurs when Sean notices a gun packed in the back of Chris' truck, after which the saga follows all the narrative phases we have seen in much better films, including last year's Sundance competition entry, “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.”

Thematically, “Weapons” belongs to a cycle of neighborhood films of the early 1990s (such as the superior “Laws of Gravity” and “Amongst Friends,” among others), which were themselves inspired by–and imitative of–Scorsese's 1973 seminal feature, “Mean Streets,” co-starring the young Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro.

I suppose you could see “Weapons” as an updated version of those films, revisiting the increasingly violent youth subculture in America by making a raw feature about yet another blue-collar suburban neighborhood. To that extent, the hip-hop tunes prove helpful in propelling the tiresome saga forward.

Nonetheless, “Weapons” lacks any new insights or angles, and thus anyone who has seen samples of this genre is likely to get bored after the first reel. Living up to its title, “Weapons” contains brutal violence, which might explain the large walkout ratio among film critics at Sundance.

I am not familiar with the previous work of Adam Bhala Lough, who is a native Virginian and now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Judging by this film, he acquits himself more honorably as a director than writer. Lough's previous works include the feature “Bomb the System,” an experimental short for the indie icon Jim Jarmusch, and music videos for MF Doom and Joe Strummer (whose life, by the way, is chronicled in another Sundance feature this year).