FANTASIA 2017: Lowlife Directed by Ryan Prows
Starring Nicki Micheaux, Ricardo Adam Zarate, Jon Oswald
Published Jul 25, 2017Lowlife is a visceral and truly singular experience that will leave you in shock — not only because of what's happening onscreen but because this is Ryan Prows' first feature film. The piece is a genre-smashing tour de farce complete with painful violence, subtle social commentary and a heaping helpful of hard laughs. It's obnoxious, obscene and totally worthy of obsession.
Set in the shittiest underbelly of Los Angeles, the film follows a colourful cast of characters that includes a luchador prone to rage blackouts, a menacing crime boss who harvests organs and runs a brothel in the basement of his taco stand, an accountant family man, a recovering alcoholic in charge of a seedy motel, a young pregnant junkie and an ex-convict with a giant swastika tattooed in the centre of his face.
The caper that ties all these characters together is better viewed than explained, particularly considering the playful chronology that Prows puts forth. Broken into three acts, the film shifts perspective from character to character. Because five different screenwriters wrote it, the tone is all over the place, but it's never distracting. Instead, Lowlife is a refreshing and high-paced blend of action, drama, gore and pitch-black comedy.
There are a handful of scenes so violent and grotesque that your stomach will churn, particularly when paired with the ear-piercing score from Kreng. Thanks to the hyper-realistic practical effects, human bodies are sliced, pummelled and crushed with grotesque realism.
When you're not cringing at the violence, however, you'll find yourself laughing at the razor-sharp comedy, much of which hovers around themes of race in present-day America. And while the film will leave you feeling like you could use a shower or two, it also concludes with a satisfactory and, dare we say, sort of happy ending.
Lowlife is brash, boisterous and ridiculously confident, making it must-see viewing for genre fans around North America. It's undeniably an instant cult classic, though it's unclear whether or not it will push Prows onto bigger projects — he doesn't exactly come across like the kind of director that's willing to make concessions to the mainstream.