Guilty by Association (2003)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama  |   Release Date - Jul 22, 2003 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Josh Ralske

Guilty by Association is an ugly, confusing mess of a low-budget crime drama. An apparent vanity project for the Washington, D.C., rap group Section 8 Mob, the movie opens with some portentous narration from Morgan Freeman in an extremely brief role as a taciturn DC cop, Lieutenant Redding, in which he essentially tells us that murder is very bad. There are also some disturbing crime statistics cited about the murder rate. Then there's a Section 8 video for the title track which features several women dressed like prostitutes pretending to play Twister. Then some secondary characters are introduced, via narration, although the narrator is no longer Freeman. Among these is the brain-damaged Dumb Donald, played by the film's director, Po Johns. Thanks to the generally poor acting and writing (including the ill-advised use of at least four narrators), as the story progresses, even the most attentive viewer may have trouble remembering which character is supposed to be brain damaged. Perhaps sensing this, the filmmakers accompany the more inane bits of Dumb Donald's dialogue with jarringly inappropriate comic sound effects. The movie's plot is a collection of overly familiar urban gangster movie tropes, from the bumbling beat cop to the havoc that drug game success wreaks on the main characters' friendship. Guilty by Association manages to distinguish itself from other films using these plot points by being far more plodding and amateurish than most. Freeman's minimal participation (artificially extended to ridiculous lengths through the use of flashbacks and recaps) doesn't add much. One of the two lead actors, Jeff Edward, actually conveys a surprising amount of charisma, considering the context. But the film as a whole is inept exploitation, halfheartedly disguised as social comment.