Cardinal X Review: Angie Wang directs a semi-autobiographical tale of her time distributing Ecstasy in college.

Cardinal X review by Kat Hughes, March 2017.

Any film which starts with Billy Idol‘s Flesh for Fantasy has my attention, and luckily for Cardinal X it also managed to maintain that interest. Directed by Angie WangCardinal X is a semi-autobiographical tale of a damaged Asian girl whom, whilst battling her dark past, had a brief stint making and dealing Ecstasy during her time at college.

Now, we’ve all seen films and television shows that chart normal people dabbling in the drug trafficking world. Frustratingly, most of these stories all follow the same pattern; they start dealing, become instantly super rich, the money and power goes to their head before finally they fall from grace. Cardinal X skirts a lot of those tropes. Our protagonist Angie is manufacturing and dealing for money, but it’s to pay for her college tuition. What’s more, once she starts to come into money she uses it to help those around her, in particular a young girl Bree (Aalyrah Caldwell) whose mother Anita (Yetide Badaki) is a crack addict. Bree’s tumultuous childhood reminds Angie of her own dark beginnings. We see glimpses of Angie’s past traumas, never for very long, but the emotion and gravitas of the events translate beautifully. It’s also fantastic to see a character that has clearly been the victim of torment and abuse be portrayed as being fiercely independent and strong. Not everyone crumbles under adversity.

Set during the eighties, Cardinal X perfectly encapsulates the punk era through a combination of music, fashion and attitude. Annie Q is superb in the role of Angie. Her performance is so effortless and absorbing that it almost feels that you’re watching a documentary. There’s also a fantastic performance from Francesca Eastwood (daughter of Clint Eastwood) as Angie’s college roommate Jeanine. Jeanine is from money, and on the surface has the picture perfect life that Angie has always dreamed of. This couldn’t be further from the truth though, and the pair bond over their disrupted home lives.

Scott Keiji Takeda also deserves praise for his portrayal of Tommy, Angie’s ideal (but not to be) suitor. Tommy is one of the only people that Angie opens up with, and he plays the unrequited lover and loyal friend well. Also on-board, as shady club owner and drug distributing kingpin, Lior, is Noah Segan. Segan is always a wonder to watch, especially when he’s playing the bad guy.

With Cardinal X, Wang fully exposes herself both artistically and personally as she unveils all manner of skeletons. Some elements have obviously been created for dramatic purpose, but there’s clearly enough of the truth there to tell a powerful story.

Cardinal X review by Kat Hughes, March 2017.

Cardinal X begins it’s festival tour at CAAMFEST this week. 

Cardinal X