Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Review: Ace Jackson is a Dead Man

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet

Ace Jackson is a Dead Man
Directed by Sean Weathers and Aswad Issa
Full Circle Filmworks
67 minutes, 2015

While I sometimes kid director Sean Weathers about his lack of making horror films any more, he really has nailed down the exploitation / sexploitation / Blaxploitation genres into a single category in a way that I imagine would make Melvin van Peebles smile.

As usual, a very toned and six-packed Weathers plays the lead, and also par is that the main character is not a likeable lot, up to his dick in violence, drugs, hookers and trouble. A lowest echelon wannabe gangsta (am I allowed to say that?), Jackson has picked up some pure coke from an evil tempered and dangerous dealer named Mr. Bigelow (aka Mr. Biggs), fully embodied by Adonis Williams, who does a magnificent job. Shit, I was at home watching this and he made me a bit frightened!

Even his hooker girlfriends are scary. One won’t give him the time of day (though shows us a whole bunch of cleavage) at first, and another, named Chelsea, is in for a penny-in for a pound of coke. She dances and twerks for Ace (aka, the audience), and then lots of flesh on flesh (the sex talk is right out of a porn playbook in a “Pin me down with your hot pussy!” kind of thing). As the writer, Weathers also gives himself lots of opportunity to co-mingle with all the female cast members onscreen. This gives him a chance to show off his physique, as well as act with some fine looking actresses in softcore sex scenes.

The Cramps once sang that “All Women Are Bad,” and while I don’t agree with that, here the Eve backstabs the Adam – or Ace – and the drugs are gone. Of course, this puts our little pal in a pickle to pay back the bad dude, hence the title of the film. That being said, while there are some devious dishy dames, it is also a couple of women who are the most pitifully entrapped in the lifestyle by our reckless protagonist (I don’t believe “hero” or even “anti-hero” would be appropriate).

Over a soundtrack of some classic way-back beautiful Blues songs, Ace roams the Brooklyn ‘hoods trying to find his way out of the possibility of ending up in a hole “with nothing showing but the toes.” But one thing to learn about this film is that comeuppance, the negative side of karma, comes hard to those who play by their own rules and greed.

This is filmed purposefully in a very grainy high-contrast black and white by Issa, and while some of the shadows are occasionally too dark and block out the faces, it is always the right level of moody, so it all works out fine in that aspect. Perhaps the darkness is meant to reflect the characters’ dark souls. Also the sound is clear, which is a plus. There’s still the occasional rough edit here and there, but the scenes flow well and enable the story, which is a pleasure.

One of the character’s names is Trayvon Martin, a nod to the teenager shot in Florida by psycho pseudo-cop George Zimmerman. No matter how racially charged and negative the characters can be in a Weathers film, the social justice level is definitely there as well, sometimes blatant like less-than-subliminal police crime photos of real murdered criminals and prostitutes (some are quite gruesome, including decapitated heads). Weathers effectively used this trick before, showing historic lynching photos to emphasize a point. There are also a number of times when the action between scenes is interrupted by text discussing social ills that may have helped lead to the crime story in the film, such as wealth of the 1%, poverty, and the need for social programs. Rather than a hindrance, this works on a level in lieu of character background.

As for Ace, well, he’s not a nice guy, and it’s nearly impossible to feel any kind of pity for him as he drags innocents into his twisted lifestyle. I would have liked a bit more of a background than someone saying, “I’ve always hated you” or some rolling text (though that was smart), I want to know why he’s developed into such the substance and person abuser that he has become.

Will all the violence and the mistreatment of just about everyone by just about everyone (with the rare exception of some dragged into the mess), there is also a delicate sense of humor that arises occasionally, such as a burglar wearing a Richard Nixon mask, stating they both were crooks.

I’ve always enjoyed a Weathers (and Issa) release that has a narrative thread rather than made up of various set pieces, and this one is definitely one of his better; and I’m not saying that because of the shout out at the end of the film. You’re welcome, Sean (and Issa).

Along with the main feature, there are three classic (public domain) criminal features included on the DVD, including Mr. Scarface (1976, aka I padroni della citta, with Jack Palance), Family Enforcer (1976, aka The Death Collector, starring Joe Pesci), and most notably for this DVD, High School Caesar (1960, with the ever wonderful John Ashley).

There are also two original shorts. The first is the 3:17 "Forgiveness," directed by Aswad Issa, is a beautifully esoteric and experimental piece consisting of objects always spinning, pixilation, and if I understand correctly, a baby who is doomed from the start.

The second, also directed by Issa,is a 4:27 piece titled "The Pimp Chronicles." In sepia, we meet two hookers who discuss their lives to someone off-screen (Weathers, I believe). This doesn't sound scripted, which makes it quite scary, in spite of the ease and banality of tone.

There is a lot to chose from here, so give yourself some time and work your way through. It's worth it.

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