Wassup Rockers is a much more playful examination of American teen life than Larry Clark's previous exploitative exposés of unmoored amoral youth. Though the Salvadorian punks at its center live in a poor, violent South Central neighborhood, Clark chooses to emphasize the energy, creativity, courage, and humor they bring to their lives through their music, style, skateboarding, and friendships. Clark met the actors on a photo shoot in 2003, befriended them, and gradually developed a screenplay around their lives. The use of non-actors and a casual shooting style brings a certain documentary aesthetic to the action, which can be misleading since the story is essentially a tall tale told from the point-of-view of Jonathan (Jonathan Velasquez). He and his friends travel to Beverly Hills and then get into a series of increasingly unlikely misadventures, traveling from mini-mansion to mini-mansion by jumping over the backyard fences (an allusion to John Cheever's short story "The Swimmer"). Jonathan's story emphasizes the brazen irreverence with which they confront the social groups, from rich kids to neighborhood gang bangers, who try to define them and put them in their place as outcasts. But Clark doesn't ignore the economic and sociopolitical realities on the outskirts of Jonathan's story that also confine the kids, and which will be harder to deal with than the cheeky verve and sexual confidence used in Jonathan's idealized telling. Clark's enthusiasm for these kids is evident and he brings out their personalities to overshadow their amateur acting. At times the storytelling is too sloppy, even given its teen tall-tale origins, but this is a captivating portrait of youthful defiance and L.A.'s Latino punk-rock scene.
by Michael Buening review