“Cut Throat City” is a movie that I have to admit something about right off the bat. From the trailer, I expected your typical run of the mill action “heist” type of film. But what we get is something that’s got a lot on its mind and it mostly works. The story follows four young boys played by Shamiek Moore (Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, Dope), Demetrius Shipp Jr. (All Eyez on Me), Keean Johnson (Alita: Battle Angel, Midway), and Denzel Whittaker (The Purge television series) who decide to start robbing banks in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There’s a good chance a premise like that could make you roll your eyes, but there’s a lot more here. What surprised me is how the RZA really pulls a lot of thoughts and ideas into this “wannabe gangster” story.
His first feature “Man with The Iron Fists” focused as a heavily inspired and over the top take on the old kung-fu sub-genre. It’s extreme violence certainly didn’t appeal to all critics, but it checked off a lot of boxes for that genre. Here, RZA rides a fine line by essentially making the film's metaphorical “text” also be its subtext. While making an entertaining thriller, he also talks about the financial struggle in our modern society. Our four leads all follow the same struggle of being unable to support themselves or their loved ones. The only difference here is that the stakes were heightened after the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina. One of the reasons this works as well as it does is due to this phenomenal cast.
The young actors hit the mark in the film as we follow our leads through this shady world. It is thanks to the fine cast of supporting players we have that adds rich characterization to the detailed world of the film. When you have a supporting cast such as Terrence Howard, T.I. Harris, Wesley Snipes, Eliza Gonzalas and Ethan Hawke it fills the world out nicely. Each of these actors adds to these young men’s metaphorical “Bonnie and Clyde” type of struggle and they never take away from their performances. The only unfortunate aspect is that with a cast of characters this massive, the narrative can be jumbled which slows the film’s pace.
It could easily be argued that this distraction goes along with the passion RZA has for this subject matter. The film is two hours and twelve minutes long and certainly doesn’t need to be, but I was never bored. From an opening anime/manga style sequence, it’s easy to tell how much this story means to everyone involved. Even with some pacing issues, my only other qualm involves the ending (which includes more than one after credit sequence). To avoid the risk of spoilers all I will say is that after seeing the film twice, there is something that just doesn’t sit right with me. “Cut Throat City” is an entertaining film with a lot of things to say, they just don’t land as strong as intended.
Watch the trailer here.