Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Taz, as played by actor Simon Rex, wants to be King of the Avenue. As far as I can tell the King of the Avenue is like the biggest, baddest, meanest drug dealer in all the neighborhood, and while this doesn’t seem like much of an ambition to me, who am I to tell Taz this? Go for it brother. One of the reasons Taz wants to be King of the Ave is because his old man Norman (Ving Rhames) was King of the Ave before The Man beat him to death with a blunt force object way back in ’79. There is a reason the big black brutal drug dealer was the adoptive father to the blue eyed white boy, but we’re not going to get into all of that. Just know that in the present day Taz has followed in his old man’s footsteps and slings contraband with the best of them, though he still isn’t ‘King of the Avenue’ and his quest to be that is what this movie is all about.

Taz has kind of figured this whole drug thing out. Play off his squeaky clean ‘White Boy’ image which allows him to float in and out societies social norms while avoiding the pitfalls of his ostentatious competitors. Live well but not too well. Unfortunately Taz has gone and pissed off Hector (Hemky Madera), the current King of the Ave, by trying to broker a drug deal behind his back. Hector has been aching to blow Taz away for years anyway considering Taz’s old man put a couple slugs in Hector’s old man’s dome for attempting to turn states evidence. So as punishment for Taz’s transgressions, Hector has sanctioned a hit on Taz’s wife and son and even his girlfriend. Bastard!

Then Taz has a vision. Satan (Esai Morales) comes to him in a dream and makes him an offer. Satan will protect his family and make Taz King of the Avenue, plus he doesn’t even want his soul as payment considering that Satan, as he tells it, has too many souls cluttering Hell as it is. He just needs Taz to dig up his old man’s bones so he can reanimate his mayhem making demon into his Fathers shell. Yeah, that’s pretty screwed up, but whaddayagonnado?

Sure enough Norman comes cattin’ back into the room looking mighty dapper, but it’s not really Norman but the demon De’ Sha and De’ Sha has a taste for destruction.

Systematically Taz’s enemies are laid out, the family is safe, his much coveted title of King of the Avenue will be acquired, life is good, money is plentiful and everybody is happy. How easy was that? But we are dealing with Satan over here, you know what I’m saying?  And as such there is always some fine print in these deals that nobody ever seems to read. Pretty soon this demon’s taste for destruction spreads from Taz’s enemies to Taz’s friends and loved ones. Not part of the deal. Taz needs to have a confab with Satan real quick-like to talk this thing over but Satan isn’t taking his calls. Even if Satan was available Taz would not enjoy hearing what he has to tell him, not at all.

Let me tell you what’s great about this movie ‘King of the Avenue’ and that would be one Irving ‘Ving’ Rhames. Sometimes we see upper echelon actors in lower budgeted movies and on more than a few occasions the actors in these movies don’t appear to be giving it their best shot. They look bored, almost as if they’re too good for the material they’ve just accepted a check for… cough… Val Kilmer… cough. Ving Rhames would not be one of these actors. Ving Rhames almost all by himself with his sneering, crazed, over the top, completely gangsta portrayal of the demon in this movie and the way he gleefully delivered his lines made this film worth watching. Esai Morales only had a little bit of screen time in this movie but his smooth criminal version of Satan also helped raise this movie a little higher.

What wasn’t so great about this movie was actor Simon Rex, and considering this was his movie, that’s a little bit of a problem. For starters Mr. Rex just isn’t much of an actor, starting off with his uninspired narration of the events that are transpiring in front of us which was a narrative device that director Ryan Combs probably should’ve opted to leave on the editing room floor. The more pressing issue, outside of Simon Rex’s inability to emote, was that I was supposed to be sold on the fact that Taz is a squeaky clean suburbanite putting on a front which allows him to flow in and out of the boardrooms and the backrooms. I didn’t buy any that. In fact if a Crip, a Blood and Taz in his purple silk shirt, glassed out eyes and a couple of days worth of razor stubble were to walk into my place of business, the Crip and the Blood could roam around freely while I sent my security guy to follow the drunk looking cat in the purple silk shirt around. On the flip side I also didn’t buy into my man as King of the Avenue either. These are issues since these little nuggets are fairly critical parts of this movie.

Still, Ving Rhames does his best to save this movie. Yeah, the narrative is kind of out there and makes about as much sense as any movie that features a demon power drilling holes into people’s tracheas or meat slicing their faces into super thin deli patties, and yes Simon Rex could not carry this movie in which he was the principle star, but Ving Rhames had his back. Worth seeing for that if nothing else.

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