Lowlife is not a movie by Quentin Tarantino. But it could easily be one. It has his DNA all over it. Loads of characters that are larger than life. Littered with fun dialogue and a plot that wraps itself in circles until you can’t breathe and only a couple of characters are left standing. In fact, I’d say it’s the best Tarantino movie since Inglourious Basterds.
Trying to unravel everything that happens in this movie to form some sort of plot synopsis would be ludicrous. But I’ll throw a carrot on a stick for ya. The lives of several people collide in spectacular fashion when the kidnapping of a woman, whose organs are to be harvested, goes stunningly wrong. Oh yeah, one of these characters is a luchador who has superhuman powers.
People, that should be enough to get you in the door. What I do want to talk about is what Lowlife brings to the table in terms of its craft. There isn’t a second where the film isn’t firing on all cylinders. First-time director Ryan Prows knows exactly how to get the best out of the smart screenplay. He doesn’t let his film become convoluted. His film is easy, and fun, to follow along with, even though a lot of the plot does coil back on itself. The final half of the film is especially fun to watch.
There’s a particular incident at a hotel in the second half of the film. This incident doesn’t happen just once, but a few times. All from different perspectives. Each perspective reveals a new facet of the incident. The more you know, the more tension and dread builds to the finale. It’s a masterpiece of editing.
The performances here are all very good. In particular Nicki Micheaux, who plays the manager of the dilapidated hotel, where most of the action takes place. She has to handle a range of emotions, sometimes in the same scene. She is the soul and conduit of this wretched experience. Mark Burnham as Teddy Bear, the villain, is particularly evil and fascinating to watch. He drives around in convertible listening to opera at high levels and wears flashy clothes. Teddy Bear lacks any sort of compassion and only knows rage.
Lowlife isn’t a game changer, it’s not breaking down walls. But Lowlife is alive in more ways than most movies could ever dream about. It’s a pulsating, kinetic film. It’s muscular. Lowlife is a mean film but has more heart than most movies. Yes, it’s incredibly violent and gory. That might turn some people off. But if you stick with it, I promise you’ll be wrapped up in its power. Where else can you watch a luchador with superhuman powers team up with a guy who has a giant swastika tattooed on his face working with a black woman to save a drug-addicted pregnant Mexican woman from ICE agents and a diabolically insane organ trafficker?