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With: Shameik Moore, Demitrius Shipp Jr., Denzel Whitaker, Keean Johnson, Kat Graham, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Terrence Howard, Rob Morgan, Eiza González, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Joel David Moore, Isaiah Washington, Sam Daly, Rich Paul
Written by: P.G. Cuschieri
Directed by: RZA
MPAA Rating: R for violence, pervasive language, drug content, some sexual material and nudity
Running Time: 123
Date: 08/21/2020

Cut Throat City (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Rough 'Cut'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director RZA's epic crime drama Cut Throat City is ungainly, too long, and overly familiar, and yet its particular time and setting give it a much more ambitious scope, and a righteous passion, that energizes it.

It's 2006 in New Orleans just after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. For childhood friends — artist Blink (Shameik Moore), drug dealer Miracle (Demetrius Shipp Jr.), dog lover Junior (Keean Johnson), and jazz trumpeter Andre (Denzel Whitaker) — can barely make ends meet. Blink is newly married and has a child to support, so he and his friends go to "Cousin" (Tip "T.I." Harris), looking for work.

He sends them to rob a casino, and despite being unorganized and despite a tragedy, they manage to get away with some money. But "Cousin" is not happy with the haul, and the friends must hide out with Blink's estranged father (Wesley Snipes). Soon, the friends decide on an even bigger heist, one with symbolic significance.

Cut Throat City begins with the four friends, each of whom is easily defined by one characteristic, and even Miracle earns sympathy because he's such a bad drug dealer. (His friends tease him because he's always broke.) It's not a promising start, and then the casino heist is rather chaotic and not very suspenseful. It's all a little too straightforward.

The veteran supporting cast helps. They include Snipes, great as Blink's father, and Harris (with distracting makeup), plus Isaiah Washington, Terrence Howard, and Eiza González. And Ethan Hawke has a few scene-stealing moments as a corrupt city councilman that are flat-out funny.

But then the Hurricane Katrina themes come in. Blacks are denied FEMA aid. There's a conspiracy theory about how one levee broke toward the Black side of town, rather than the white side. An arresting sense of dark fate, of discrimination, creeps into the regular plot proceedings of Cut Throat City; life isn't fair to these guys even when they turn to crime. Everything is taken away.

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