Prince Of Broadway

Prince Of Broadway


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Lucky is a Broadway hustler, pushing knock-off shoes and handbags to a clientele that wants brand association without the cost. He hand-to-mouths along discreetly advertising for Levon, whose seedy looking shop conceals a back room filled with fakes. It isn't much of a life for either of them, but it's something. Lucky's got a girl and a place to sleep, but not his papers. Levon's got a business propped up by his illicit ventures and a marriage of sorts got him a green card.

Into their existence comes Prince, a child neither expected, left with Lucky by his ex Linda. Things get complicated from there. Lucky tries to do the right thing, but his situation makes it hard. Things go wrong.

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Prince Of Broadway has a documentary feel: minimal dialogue; a sparse if sometimes heavy-handed soundtrack; scenes seen and unseen, off-screen implications; more tellingly though, unsteady camera work. The very processes of hand-held attention have become short-hand for reality, that faint wobble of steps taken or shoulders moved, that fly on the wall that is not of the wall, that abstracted agitation that conveys versimilitude.

We have been trained, as audiences, to perceive this interaction as a signifier of truth. McLuhan would applaud, but there are further connotations. New York is a filmic city, and almost always herself; a bright shining movie star to Toronto's mid-tier character acting. Since 1993's NYPD Blue, New York and that shaking camera have gone together as smoothly as Stephen Bocho and crime drama. That fictional use of a symptom of documentarian budget constraints has entrenched it as a technique.

It's an important signifier, a badge of reality. An essential element of the simulacrum then, ironic in association with the counterfeit handbags and ersatz sneakers that Lucky touts and Levon trades. It sits comfortably with the opening and closing credits, which fade from and to black and the low rumble of anonymous traffic. Is there a noise more intrinsically 'New York' than the toot of a horn that may be a yellow cab?

Sean Baker is no stranger to immigrant dramas, having produced 2004's Take Out, which similarly followed the dilemmas of a newcomer in a fringe industry. Karren Karagulian, also in Take Out and Baker's debut Four Letter Words, is convincing as Levon. Prince Adu, too, produces genuine sympathy for Lucky's plight. Kat Sanchez is excellent as the troubled Linda, who finds herself in a situation where the act that initiates the drama seems like the best thing to do at the time.

Despite the central performances, indeed, despite Aiden Noesi's precociousness as the toddling agent of change, Prince Of Broadway never quite grabs. It feels like it's trying to be truth by copying everything one would find in the truth, but that earnestness works against it. It is a replica, enough to convince at first glance; it isn't a labyrinthine metatextual examination of reality, not deliberately at least. What it is is good enough for the price; all the right elements but within reach.

Reviewed on: 17 Feb 2009
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Prince Of Broadway packshot
An illegal immigrant and his boss try to do the right thing when unexpectedly asked to care for his young son.

Director: Sean Baker

Writer: Sean Baker, Darren Dean

Starring: Prince Adu, Karren Karagulian, Aiden Noesi, Keyali Mayaga, Kat Sanchez, Victoria Tate

Year: 2008

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: US


Glasgow 2009

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