Straight Out of Brooklyn (1991)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Crime Drama, Urban Drama  |   Release Date - May 22, 1991 (USA)  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

As powerful as contemporary inner-city films such as Do the Right Thing and Boyz N the Hood were, the tale of hopelessness in the projects feels even more achingly real on a lower budget. Such is Straight Out of Brooklyn, the remarkable debut from teenage writer/director Matty Rich, so gritty that it looks like a documentary. Shot on a shoestring with a cast of all first-time actors, including the director in a supporting role, the film gets right inside the moments of crisis in a poor African-American family. George T. Odom is menacing as the drunken father, a ranting lout who frequently leaves the family's kitchenware in a pile of rubble when he gets liquored up. His painful ravings are scary, but the real hurt exists within the pregnant silences, as his family waits out the storm, too obedient to do anything but cower. Although the sense of futility dominates, Odom's infrequent happier moments with his teenage son (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) hint at the functional bonds that could exist between them all if they could indeed get "straight out of Brooklyn." The actors all give naturalistic performances, and the young actors in particular (Gilliard, Rich, and Mark Malone) effectively translate their own experiences to generate a sense of youthful bravado and enthusiasm. Rich's point is well made: there's just so little for the characters to be enthusiastic about.