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New York City's Graffiti Writers

. "Bomb the System"

The tagline for this movie, "Graffiti Can Be A Powerful Weapon" doesn't get it right. What this glimpse into the life of public wall covering artists -- taggers, if you will -- really seems to be saying is that a career as a graffiti artist is a ticket to public loathing, constant fear of arrest, immersion into a degrading existence and, possibly, an early and violent end.

Twenty three year old debuting writer-director Adam Bhala Lough tells the amped up life of a graffiti bomber in a visual style generated on the cutting table. And, while some might call a technique of overlapped time cuts, freeze frames that thaw, jump frames and general image deviltry a daring adventure in underground cinema, others may see it as too much hip stylization.

Some might argue that the editorial gymnastics appropriately suggests a loose anchoring to convention, not unlike its subject matter. But to Lough's credit, the overlay of erratic editing disappears when it comes time to tell the story. In moments of serious dialogue, he modulates the film into downright conventional moviemaking. Two-shots, over-the-shoulders, familiar angles and straight shooting provide necessary clarity.

"Let's go bombing" is the call to the streets to prowl for prominent and unmarred wall space, a knapsack of stolen (must be stolen!) cans of paint on your shoulder, a lot of mural-making. A little is tagging, a lot is bombing, making a statement, making yourself famous.

Blest (Mark Webber, "People I know") is a good looking virtuoso of the art who hangs with a similarly motivated paint crowd, a motley group of individual crews. His own crew is pretty much himself and best friend, Justin, tag "BUK50" (Gano Grills) with neophyte Kevin, tag "LUNE" (Jade Yorker), on lookout. And, it's Justin, the original founder of the crew who dreams someday of leaving his mark on the grand opus, the Brooklyn Bridge, who isn't too pleased when Blest is distracted by sexy Alexandra (Jaclyn DeSantis) because it interferes with their main business and mars their tight loyalty.

Mom isn't too pleased either with her 19-year old's reluctance to seize the opportunity when he's accepted by the university of her choice, where he would have the opportunity to segue into daylight society and develop his talent along gallery and/or commercial lines.

When we meet vandal cop Bobby Cox (Al Sapienza), a lawman who's been on the bomber stakeout beat for years, we recognize a sociopath stereotype hiding behind badge power when we see one. Bonz Malone as Cox's partner, Officer Nole Shorts, is a less obvious creation to counterbalance the bad cop on the edge of losing it.

Pushing the sympathy buttons for these miscreants may be more than we can hack, but what we do get here are some splendid performances from up and coming actors worth watching. Mark Webber demonstrates an inherent capacity to reach down into emotional territory even though he can't quite convince us that a person of his calibre and life choices is typical of the culture or ethos. He brought to mind Eminem in "8 Mile," but without the benefit of an appealing form of expression.

Jaclyn DeSantis has an exquisite naturalness in a role that is, perhaps, less fully realized, but she does enough with it to convey some inner depth and outer sensuality. Cinematographer Ben Kutchins provides the shadowy nocturnal textures and music by Ethan Higbee and El Producto generates a lifting excitement.

Humanizing the world of vandals and giving them the benefit of kind understanding is worthy as a storytelling objective, but I come out of this wishing the paint can crowd would settle for tattoos.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Mark Webber and Jaclyn DeSantis
Blest meets political activist and new squeeze, Alex

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