12 O’CLOCK BOYS
Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten. Data-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Director: Lotfy Nathan
Cast: Pug, Coco, Steven, Wheelie Wayne, Superman, Barn, Shawn Sean, Kevin
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 1/13/14
Opens: January 31, 2014
They say that getting old is not all bad. Age enjoys the benefit of wisdom, but then, who would not (like Faust) give up all this cerebral sludge in favor of the glories of youth? Of course, unlike Faust, we would not want to pay a price, but then again, the youths often pay a big price for their irresponsible behavior—including severe injury and death. A great example of the impetuously of the young is illustrated by Lotfy Nathan, both as director and behind the camera, in his brief documentary “12 O’Clock Boys.” The kids in the movie, including some men in their twenties, don’t want to hear about “taking care.” They are exuberant, they have a hobby that impresses the young women, and they love what they’re doing. This, especially so, since the folks in this West-Baltimore-centered look at inner-city culture, deals with the kids and bikes, a perfect combination for fun, and a good opportunity to thumb their noses at the police, who are not allowed to chase the bikers for riding on sidewalks for fear of injuring innocent civilians.
Nathan’s picture is three years in the making, using one cute youngsters, Pug, as an anchor. Pug’s mother bears responsibility for bringing up four children on her own (her main man is in jail) and fears that if she herself becomes incarcerated, the welfare authorities would take the young ‘uns away from her.
Nathan affords us some sharp photography, some dizzying in nature, as he follows these fast-moving folks on the mean streets of Baltimore. Most impressive are some extreme slow-motion takes, almost like stop-action animation, to picture the tikes leaning way way back on their mobile equipment, leaving the back wheels to transport them, to, where? To nowhere. As the expression goes, it’s the journey, not the destination.
Speaking of going nowhere, one may wonder what will happen to Pug and his friends when they’re old enough to have careers. Pug’s foul-speaking mom is full of trash-talking. She actually thinks that because her Pug likes and knows things about animals and keeps a number of pets (including an angry tied-up Pit Bull, a turtle and hamsters), that he is on the road to becoming a veterinarian. But as liking people does not a doctor make, neither does a love for animals inevitably lead to veterinary college.
Pug is an adorable, seemingly bright kid, but his accent seems to be from nowhere. He is articulate but his speech is difficult to understand. Subtitles are in place in this movie to deal with the English spoken by others in this ‘hood.
The movie has a soundtrack almost as energetic as the players, featuring hip-hop, all designed to help us understand how a kid without the traditional presence of a father, and a worried mother who is hardly a role model with all her yelling and cursing, would look to the bikers as the people to emulate.
Unrated. 75 minutes. © 2014 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B-
Acting – B
Technical – A-