The Land

THE LAND, ac­tion/ad­ven­ture, not rated, The Screen, 3 chiles

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The Land takes place on the meaner streets of Cleve­land, where Cisco and his friends, Ju­nior, Patty Cake, and Boo­bie, are about to em­bark on one of their last sum­mer va­ca­tions from high school. They are on the shop track, am­biva­lent about buck­ling down to grad­u­ate as cer­ti­fied welders and auto me­chan­ics. All they want to do is skate­board, but they don’t have the money to en­ter com­pe­ti­tions, which is the only way to get spon­sored — and, in turn, they are sure — to get rich and fa­mous. They’re in­volved in not-so-low-level car theft, with Cisco as the ring­leader. Stum­bling into pos­ses­sion of a large amount of MDMA (aka “molly”) presents the crew with a com­ing-of-age dilemma wrapped in an iden­tity cri­sis. Are they skaters who need to make a lit­tle cash, or are they drug deal­ers?

The Land could be viewed as a re­tread of films about at-risk youth and gang life, like Boyz N the Hood. The boys’ ad­ven­ture tale as­pect of the movie seems more ac­cu­rately to take its cue from The War­riors, the 1979 cult clas­sic about New York City gangs, though this film is not nearly as campy and con­trived. Writ­ten and di­rected by Steven Caple Jr., with a sound­track by Nas and Erykah Badu, The Land is grit­tily re­al­is­tic in its de­pic­tion of the boys’ im­pov­er­ished home lives, which range from chal­leng­ing to de­praved. Patty Cake (Rafi Gavron) is a teenaged fa­ther liv­ing with his girl­friend’s fam­ily, while the par­ents of Boo­bie (Ezri Walker) work long hours on op­po­site shifts, leav­ing him mostly alone — and lonely. Cisco (Jorge Len­de­borg Jr.) lives in a ten­e­ment apart­ment above a hot-dog stand with his de facto step­fa­ther, Un­cle Steve (Kim Coates, in the movie’s true stand­out per­for­mance), and Steve’s junkie girl­friend, Turquoise (Badu). He spends a lot of nights with Ju­nior (Moises Arias) at his apart­ment, soak­ing in as much moth­erly af­fec­tion as he can from Ju­nior’s mom, Stacey (Na­dia Simms), who ob­vi­ously loves her kids and wor­ries about Cisco, too. There is no mys­tery as to why Cisco makes the choices he does. All of his re­la­tion­ships are com­pli­cated and there’s no place to call home. He doesn’t even have a bed.

A mo­tor­cy­cle gang op­er­ates at the be­hest of a lo­cal drug king­pin named Momma (Linda Ed­mond), and the en­tire movie takes place in a sort of hip-hop un­der­ground of skate­board com­pe­ti­tion af­ter-par­ties. There are nu­mer­ous neigh­bor­hood char­ac­ters, such as a kind convenience store clerk and a du­plic­i­tous hip­pie meth head. In this en­vi­ron­ment, the boys are an­ti­heroes, just try­ing to get enough money to buy pan­cake mix and di­a­pers, un­til a taste of wealth — and of hav­ing crim­i­nals af­ter them — tests the bonds of friend­ship in the face of their des­per­ate need for self-preser­va­tion. — Jen­nifer Levin

Where the boys are: seated, left to right, Ezri Walker, Moises Arias, and Jorge Len­de­borg Jr.; ly­ing down, Rafi Gavron

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