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. "How It All Went Down" (aka, "The Way It All Went Down")

This title presupposes that someone cares. But, there's the chance that this awkwardly told story of a good looking opportunist in the drug trade trying to go straight by turning himself into a movie producer will not build up the necessary level of interest. The problem is the central figure whose ego trip is so out in front and the sympathy for him and his situation so far behind.

The movie purports to be the true story of a drug dealer in the Pacific Northwest, Carmine "Istante" Cavelli (Silvio Pollio), listed to this day as missing. As depicted, he's an untalented self-loving wise-ass who turned drug lord in order to finance a movie, "V.i.o.l.e.n.c.e" Cavelli operated in Vancouver, Canada. Pollio, also an Italian-Canadian, who graduated film school with him and later became his soul-brother and confidant, makes this docudrama of his life as though Cavelli was a legend in his time. He may have been that to Pollio, seduced by his "big wad of cash" but his film does little to widen the scope of interest.

Purportedly, it's based on Cavelli's diary. If the film is faithful to its source, it's disjointed, lacks focus and is emotionally strung out. Poorly defined relationships include an ex-girlfriend with whom he makes an effort to remain friends but who rejects him in a flurry of putdowns. In the most dramatically promising sequence, he plays the good guy, taking on the rehabilitation of a young blond addict, Stella (very promising Daniella Evangelista), as a ward, then blowing it by not providing support at a crucial time. His heartbreak at her death by overdose seems genuine, one of several intimations that Pollio's talent could be utilized to advantage under more professional hands.

Despite obvious good looks and screen-holding charisma, Pollio as Cavelli operates very much on an emotional level. But it's expressed here in disconnected flashes like scattered pages from that diary, making it difficult to develop a tie to the guy. We care little as he attempts to fend off another dealer who thinks the neighborhood is his. When he's outclassed in the violent approach to problem solving, Cavelli loses the discipline that sets him apart as an interesting variation on the kingpin cliche. It's partly in the motivational sensitivity he uses to control his band of sub-dealers. But, when bested by a brutal competitor and fearful for his life, the ego barriers break down and he falls into a whirlpool of self destruction with his drug of choice.

When you're in the unending company of an essentially opportunistic self-indulgent narcissist and there's no other character in the field of vision to tie yourself to, the movie is likely to make you wish you were at home watching TV. You don't care if his character is dealing drugs, doing drugs or pursuing a movie deal -- it's all pretty much a stock and overblown look at the lowlife culture with the side angle of film financing.

The most positive virtue in sight is a cast only too willing to rise above the material, led by the undiluted energy of the writer-producer-director-star whose passion for playing a leading man seems to have blinded him to the defects of his poorly developed script. He blusters presumptuously along as though making this film (in 1999) is going to be his Big Break. Assuming too much, just like the title itself.

I couldn't help wondering... is this a tale about the missing Cavelli... or a screen-starved Pollio? The distinction seems blurry, and not because of command of the medium. Its likely destiny, much as that of its habituees, is a short life. As an entry for Pollio's career it's more a downer than a stimulant.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  




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Silvio Pollio as Carmine "Istante" Cavelli

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