Eye For Film >> Movies >> Hangin' With The Homeboys (1991) Film Review
Hangin' With The Homeboys
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Friday night is party night - guys on the hustle, chicks dressed for explosion, jungle lights and cruisin' a clean car. The whole world is hot for headlines. It's wipeout on Main Street.
This is the South Bronx, New York. Willie (Doug E Doug) is an angry African American. Everything's a racist conspiracy. "You're doin' this because I'm black," he tells the welfare lady when she gives him an earful of grief for not fulfilling his work programme. He says, "Proud is loud, bro," and then panhandles his homeboys for beer bucks.
Johnny (John Leguizamo) works in the corner supermarket. He's Puerto Rican, shy, wants to hang out but thinks he should stay at home and complete that form for the further education college. He has a crush on Daria (Christine Claravall), whose sex drive would run him over if he stood in her way, and still lives with his mother.
Tom (Mario Joyner) is a neat treat, cool as a pool. He's a black actor who had the part of a waiter in Rain Man once before some deluded casting assistant pulled the role from under his feet. He recognises his talent and tells himself that a fine looking sister like Vanessa (Kimberly Russell) would not waste her beauty sleep on a two-bit spear carrier, if he didn't have what she needs. Of course, he learns later that she's two-timing with a dandy called Frederick and his resolve is weakened.
Vinny's (Nestor Serrano) real name is Fernando. He's Puerto Rican, too, but thinks he's Italian. He doesn't work and lives off girls. He's not a pimp, just a self-styled Casanova with satin sheets and a long line in flattery. He's known the heartache and he's known love-on-trial. Now he's a player in the sex game, where emotions are so padded they don't feel pain.
Vinny thinks Johnny's a nerd. He tells Willie, "If I have a boring, depressing evening, you are responsible - you!", meaning if Johnny brings everyone down with his naive sincerity his pal Willie pays. Tom stands back, with dignity. They need him too much and he respects that. He owns the car.
The night is several layers of aggravation, interspersed with flashes of triumph. They decide to go over the bridge to Manhattan, much to Willie's disgust ("Drop me off in Harlem") and Vinny's delight ("Let's get some rich white women") and Johnny's despair (they watch Daria perform in a 25-cent porn peepshow) and Tom's shock (car trouble). If they discover tough truths on the way, that's some kind of bonus, and when they come out alive at the end, that's lucky.
The scenario follows the tradition of On The Town in the barest sense. Its humour - this is a very funny film - comes from observation and character. Writer/director Joseph Vasquez admits that much of it is autobiographical, which explains another of its great strengths - authenticity.
Nowhere does his script pander to racial stereotype, or insert simplistic sight gags. Even the scene when they check out Vanessa ("You'll be beggin' to drink her bath water," Tom boasts) is perfectly underplayed, when it could have been blown up into farce.
When they are arrested and interrogated by subway cops for jumping the barrier, they break into giggles. It's the most understandable thing in the circumstances, halfway through the night, not entirely sober. Despite fights and disagreements, their friendship feels genuine. It's not built on sentiment, but welded by experience - the bad times are the good times.
The performances are beyond praise, in that perfect place where acting bleeds into life and every line feels natural. Doug is never still, constantly insinuating insult. Serrano moves like a dancer, snapping slick sentences at the heels of anything in short skirts. Leguizamo has the sensitivity of expectant failure, with moments of surprising strength. Joyner watches himself watch others, performing the tragedian, even in jest.Reviewed on: 11 May 2005
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