Lowlife Review: A group of seemingly unconnected people collide in this Tarantino-esque story.
Lowlife makes its screen debut as part of this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival. Split into several interconnecting sections, Lowlife tells the story of three very different people – an addict, an ex-con and a luchador, whose lives collide when an illegal organ harvesting caper goes wrong.
The narrative unfolds in a manner similar to both Pulp Fiction and Go, we see events from all character’s perspectives meaning that the audience gets the full story. It takes a little while to understand quite where Lowlife wants to go, but once you get it, you’re in for an entertaining journey. The naming of the story sections aren’t the usual character names, but rather a description that has some bearing on who we are with. The titles are Lowlife, Monster, Fiends, Thugs and Criminals.
The strongest section is Fiends; here we join hotel owner Crystal (Nicki Micheaux), a recovering addict whom is desperate to find a donor for her drunk husband. It’s during this sequence that the puzzle pieces set up previously start to fall into place. Connections are made here, and suddenly what was previously unrelated and chaotic, starts to make sense. All the events start to line-up; the connections are clever and well thought-out.
The constant switching of lead character and timeline however can, like in so many others in the genre, become jarring and confusing. Also in today’s climate, the narrative device seems old hat, both Pulp Fiction and Go were around twenty years ago. This means that rather than being a fresh take, Lowlife can only be viewed as a throwback to cinema in the nineties. It’s not a bad thing, everything comes back into fashion again eventually, but it just makes Lowlife feel a little dated.
The cast of unknowns are all engaging and make you want to know more about their characters. Kudos should go to Jon Oswald. His character, ex-con Randy, has a swastika tattooed on his face. It is a brave actor who will agree to their face being disfigured at all, but to agree to having something as controversial as that symbol painted on them is the bravest of them all. It isn’t just a shock-tactic either, there’s a plausible reason for it’s existence and it later serves the narrative perfectly.
A quirky black comedy that weaves a complicated web of characters, Lowlife takes us back to early Tarantino.
Lowlife review by Kat Hughes, July 2017
Lowlife is currently playing at the Fantasia International Film Festival.