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HURRICANE STREETS (director/writer: Morgan J. Freeman; cinematographer: Enrique Chediak; editor: Sabine Hoffman; music: Theodore Shapiro; cast: Brendan Sexton 3d (Marcus), Edie Falco (Joanne), Shawn Elliott (Paco), Isidra Vega (Melena), David Roland Frank (Chip), L.M. Kit Carson (Mack), Antoine McLean (Harold); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Galt Niederhoffer/Gill Holland/Morgan J. Freeman; United Artists; 1997)

“Never rises above the very ordinary.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The indie won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. So much for trusting the public’s taste. First-time director Morgan J. Freeman(Homecoming”/”Just Like The Son”/”Born Killers“), not the famous actor,has amateur lapses in his storytelling, as the pic never rises above the very ordinary. It’s one big cliche of a film, that skates around the Big Apple with the usual troubled teen tale and takes us over familiar ground to land nowhere interesting.

White boy Marcus (Brendan Sexton 3d) is an asthmatic 15-year-old leader of a five-man multi-racial gang of petty teen criminals (stealing sneakers & CDs), who hang out at a riverfront underground clubhouse on New York’s Lower East Side (sort of like the Dead End Kids). His mom Joanne (Edie Falco) is doing a long stretch in the slammer for supposedly helping illegals cross the border in New Mexico and his dad died in a traffic accident when he was five. Later Marcus learns from cops questioning him about stolen goods that his mom killed his abusive dad, and he makes his dream to flee to his birthplace in New Mexico more urgent. The unwatched kid is raised by his neglectful bar owner granny (Lynn Cohen), who offers him no guidance but unconditional love. The pouting Marcus is a shop-lifter and fences stolen goods, thinking these low-level crimes are not that bad. The kid rides around town on his bicycle, and meets the pretty 14-year-old Latino Melena (Isidra Vega) at the playground. Her strict possessive single dad (Shawn Elliott), a tow truck operator, forbids his roller skater daughter to date Marcus. While the gang plans to rob a cop’s apartment, elevating their criminal history, Marcus refuses to join them and plans to runaway with the unhappy Melena to his uncle’s ranch in New Mexico.Things heighten in intensity when the cop’s gun is stolen and is inadvertently used in a tragic death. But the melodrama loses credibility as it becomes more hard-edged in its storytelling, as it demands better responses than what was provided in its punky conclusion.

The acting was shrill, except for Sexton, with the film’s best actor, Falco, constrained in a minor role that has her behind bars delivering flat dialogue.Freeman never got around to saying anything meaningful about these confused inarticulate teens, who obviously seem to be clueless about what’s right and wrong and what they want out of life. Maybe with a more convincing story, one that’s more real, the pic would have been more consequential.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”