Menace (2002)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Buzz McClain

Punctuated by debuting director John Marino's amateurish mistakes -- mostly film-school type editing tricks -- this rough-hewn, low budget indie nonetheless remains oddly compelling, with a venomous sort of street-level charm. Amid the glut of urban crime dramas, this one has an earnest integrity that overcomes genre limitations. It's easy to see what attracted nonconformist director Abel Ferrara to produce -- it shares elements of style and sentiment of Ferrara's own unpasteurized films, including Bad Lieutenant. Rising star Amy Lohman, in her first significant role, is convincingly sympathetic, an emotion the script desperately needed. If there had been some amount of redemption on the part of nominal protagonist Brian Lovero (played by co-writer Johnny Green) -- who inexplicably falls for straight-laced Amy just minutes after beating a man senseless -- it would have been easier to recommend. But as it remains, Brian's actions, and the movie at large, simply accomplish cheap thrills. And yet . . . there's something about it that's likeably hateful. Originally called White Boy, Menace will turn off those looking for slick, polished studio-quality action. But those whose tastes run toward art house and indie fare will see how authenticity can overcome technical limitations.