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Life is Hot in Cracktown - Anchor Bay - DVD Print E-mail
User Rating: / 6
Written by Jay Creepy   
Thursday, 21 February 2013

Buy "Life is Hot in Cracktown" on DVD from Amazon.comBuy "Life is Hot in Cracktown" on DVD from
Buy "Life is Hot in Cracktown" on DVD from
Buy the "Life is Hot in Cracktown" novel on Amazon.comBuy the "Life is Hot in Cracktown" novel on
Buy the "Life is Hot in Cracktown" novel on

Directed by: Buddy Giovinazzo
Written by:
Buddy Giovinazzo
Produced by:
William Fisch, Larry Rattner
Cinematography by:
Kathryn Westergaard
Editing by:
Shilpa Sahi
Music by:
Ric Markman
Special effects by:
Erich Martin Hicks
Evan Ross, Omar Regan, Victor Rasuk, Shannyn Sossamon, Desmond Harrington, Kerry Washington, RZA
1h 39min

Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment

The years between the creation of Buddy Giovinazzo's "Combat Shock" and this film has not mellowed his outlook of New York City.  Along the way, Buddy directed Tim Roth in "No Way Home," and the brilliant teaser "Maniac 2: Mr Robbie" (damn what a film that would have been had tragic circumstances not occurred).  Supporting himself filming episodes of various TV series, he also wrote a little known novel called Life Is Hot In Cracktown.  Having bought the book around 2004, I was shocked by the raw power and the feel of the desolate side of New York.  You could hear it, smell the shit and hear the roaches scuttle.  Certain chapters really jumped out, one being the torture of the old man in his apartment.

So when I discovered the DVD of the book by Buddy himself I was like a kid at christmas, being a huge fan of "Combat Shock" since the late eighties.  Of course the question hangs over it, can it bring over a visual feel of the gritty novel?  The answer, yes, even though it has taken a way quite a few of the raw elements and polished some of the characters, it is still an unforgettable walk through New York.

The credits run with dark street scenes and someone smoking a spliff.  We're straight in the deep end as we meet Romeo, a young street wannabee gangster who leads a Puerto Rican girl into an alley where his gang wait.  They throw her on a battered mattress and rip her clothes off.  The rape is brutal and is straight out of "Savage Streets" or "I Spit On Your Grave" as they take turns.  One teen has doubts and backs away.  Romeo's closest friend then stands above her and urinates on her face and body.  Afterwards, Romeo leaves her some crack rock and thanks her as she cries.

Next, we are introduced to Manny who works a thankless night job in a 24.7 surrounded by pimps, pushes, drinkers and ho's.  He's always on edge, expecting violence any moment.  By the morning after a couple of hours sleep he's awaken by his girl, Concetta for his second job as a security guard below a Welfare hotel.  Their baby is ill and they can't afford proper medication or treatment so they have to cope with the constant crying day and night.

In the Welfare hotel are two kids, Willy and Susie who sit alone eating crackers and playing with a roach.  Willy heads out to beg in the street and raise a few dollars.  Returning to the apartment he finds she's gone so heads back onto the street.  He and a crackhead chat for a while.  He finds her and they head back upstairs.  Briefly we see a young couple hiding in a doorway from a dealer called Lucky, then return to Willy who's watching Manny argue with some old dude in the street.  The old guy spits on Manny and the people around applaud.  The young couple enter the hotel and ask Manny if anyone's been looking for them.  They head up to Willy and Susie.  It's their mom and her boyfriend who has a very nasty temper.

Meanwhile, Romeo and his cru are stalking the streets looking for trouble.  Willy and the crackhead go “see some ho's” and watch a gaggle of them on the corner.  Willy waves to Melody, an underage girl who works the streets with her moms.

As night falls we are introduced to the final two central characters, Benny and Marybeth.  Benny is a user and a petty thief who also does break-ins to tide them over.  Marybeth used to be called Mikey, and is halfway through his/her sex change ops and treatments.  Marybeth turns tricks on the streets much to Benny's rage.  He dowses the rage in a crackpipe and growls to himself how their relationship is a “freakshow” and “Everywhere we go people laugh. What the fuck am I doing? I wish she was dead.

Now that we've had the introductions, it's time to step up a level.  Romeo and his cru visit an old man who they steal off regularly and smash his apartment up then shove a pipe up his ass, connect a hot water bottle full of cold water and squeeze.  (This is nothing compared to the section in Buddy's novel, believe me the original novel is chilling in its lengthy descriptions).

Manny arrives home and can't sleep due to the babies cries.  Both he and Concetta start arguing, he nearly punches the baby then storms out.  At work he just stares at the wall in tensed up madness.

Melody and Willy hang out and talk about life after he's been beaten by his moms boyfriend.  Benny and Marybeth visit friends and party together but his eyes are on other women.

Afterwards Manny is robbed at gunpoint in the 24.7 so he decides to tool up.  Romeo is given a job by a top dealer he knows to take out a troublemaker called Pepperton.  He's given a gun for the job.

All these characters work in the film in their own worlds though they all live on the same block.  We see them overlap each others stories now and then but mainly they are all heading down their own paths and some you can feel are going to have nasty ends waiting for them.

There are moments where you see "Combat Shock" echoed in the script.  For instance, Manny's constant crying child, and a scene where Marybeth phones his/her father for help.

Where the strength exists in this film is with the characters themselves -- they are so solid and the performances are absolutely perfect.  Even Romeo, the one person with no redeeming features.  There's a moment when he stares at a photo of his recently killed brother and that is there to lend depth to what may have been a shallow person.

Anchor Bay Entertainement puts out the DVD with a few interesting extras.  There's a featurette called Last 'Exit To Cracktown' which has interviews with the stars and director.  This adds some more depth to the story, and the final chapter when Buddy explains what he wanted to achieve with this film is just excellent.  We've got lots of deleted scenes, one which has Concetta and her sister talking for about five minutes isn't bad.  There's a few scenes of Romeo which you can understand why they never made the final cut.  The last one 'Rough Cut Ending', is an extended conclusion to Manny's story and ties up some loose ends left open in the film.  I can see why it never made the movie too because when you watch the film it's like a speeding train ready to crash at any moment.  To include this version would have diluted the effect, but it's great to watch it.  Lastly we've got a few trailers for other movies like "Columbus Day" and "Skeleton Crew" as well as "Life Is Hot In Cracktown."

"Life Is Hot In Cracktown" is a film not to be compared to "Combat Shock."  This is more smooth and polished, but still carries that nasty pull-no-punches approach that made "Combat Shock" so noticed back in the eighties.  NYC is portrayed the way the tourists never see, just like "Piggy," which I reviewed, shows the other side of London, and how all UK seaside towns have a clean front but a hell hole of unemployment and crime mere streets away.  Buddy Giovinazzo doesn't flinch from revealing what really goes on.


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 Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
 Region: NTSC R1
 Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1

 - Last Exit To Cracktown featurette
 - Deleted Scenes
 - Trailers

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