Reviewed by

Christopher Armsted

Of course there’s the classic line in ‘Jerry McGuire’ where Renee Zelwegger tells Tommy Cruise ‘You had me at hello’. Allow me to say that the writer and directors of this film ‘Rockaway’, Jeff and Josh Crook, had me when that Russian cat took a shotgun and blew that Mexican dudes head clean off. I mean he blew it clean off. Chances are it had me before that scene, but that one pretty much nailed it down. Outstanding! Not that wanton violence alone makes for a good movie, but if you’re making a brutal revenge flick, it’s not gonna hurt it none.

Nicholas Gonzalez is Army Specialist Trane who is in Afghanistan looking for the mythical Osama Bin Laden when his sergeant gives him a message. Apparently it’s something real bad because Trane falls to the ground inconsolable and is on the next transport out of Afghanistan back to his home, the even more dangerous New York City, in particular the little known borough known as Rockaway. What Trane knows is that his wife and infant child have been brutally murdered, what he doesn’t know is why, and for this info he enlists the help of his homeless beachcombing buddy Dave (Ricardo Chavira). Dave informs him that neighborhood has gone straight to shit, led by drug dealing gangster Juju (Mario Cimarro) and that his always ‘do right’ wife had just become too much a nuisance, always calling the cops and what-not, necessitating her immediate elimination.

Well that’s all the information that Trane needed to know because he has a refrigerator full of a cold dish called revenge, and he’s about to serve it up. But not so fast my friends as merely taking out some low level drug dealers ain’t quite what Trane has in mind as he wants to cut off the head of this snake and not just a few fingers, that is if snakes had fingers. It seems that Juju and them are merely the puppets of the Russian

mob led by it’s chief heavy Ivan – a likely name (Oleg Taktarov), are the ones who are flooding the neighborhood with their drugs and are more than likely are the dudes who had his wife and child killed. So by using a little sleight of hand Trane is able to horn his way into both organizations, playing both sides against the middle, getting his enemies to eliminate each other while he sits by and watches, only dirtying up his hands when necessary to further his plan. But a plan can only work so well up to a point and eventually Trane will find himself in a near impossible situation to finalize his much desired revenge, but trust me when I tell you that Paul Kersey doesn’t have anything on this cat when it comes to getting even.

I know some of you uninitiated out there are like ‘who the hell is Paul Kersey?’ You’ll have to figure that one out for yourselves. But ‘Rockaway’ was quite the bloody violent surprise I must say. Though this a film that is rooted in the low budget, the Crook Brothers have shown us that it’s not how much money you have but how you spend the money you do have that makes the difference. It appears that a bulk of the budget went into ways of taking huge bullet chunks out the skulls of folks as this is easily one of the most brutally violent films I’ve ever seen. Had I seen this before I saw the new ‘Rambo’, it would have been the most realistically violent film I’ve ever seen, but Sly pretty much snatched that crown and I doubt anybody will be able to wrest it from his crinkly old hands anytime soon. Though the running time of ‘Rockaway’ is brief as I don’t even think it topped 80 minutes, the creators managed to squeeze in various instances of bullets to the head, bullets to the eyes, knives to the eyes, knives to the gut, bullets to the gut, bullets to the crotch and just about any scene of graphically violent imagery that you could imagine.

Though the violence is important to the narrative, one of the reasons the film works is because narrative is so basic that not a lot of time was necessary in developing it. It’s revenge pure and simple and either you go with it or you don’t. The Crooks Brothers also spent wisely on their cast using a number of unknown, albeit very good actors, which is something I have championed for years. With as many people trying to be actors out there it seems that finding someone to competently recite a line shouldn’t be all that hard, but I’ve seen first hand that obviously it is, but not the case with ‘Rockaway’. Nicholas Gonzalez, Malik Yoba and Ricardo Chavira from ‘Desperate Housewives’ are instantly recognizable but Mario Cimarro, Manny Perez as Juju’s right hand man Antwan and Oleg Takarov were very convincing in their roles and what little dialog there was in this flick was crisp clean and well written.

Again as is most action flicks, particularly one this short, there is a large dose of illogicality and implausibility that you’re going to have to swallow to get through the story, and I’ve pretty much written this off as a standard for the genre, but you still may wonder how criminals this stupid managed to rise this high in their chosen fields.

But hey, I haven’t see the ‘thinking man’s’ action flick yet and I’m certainly not holding my breath for that possible day – even though I’m sure some of you have some nominations for a few flicks out there, and please don’t try to tell me that ‘Lethal Weapon’ was a thinking man’s action flick. Until then, I gotta say that Rockaway was a movie that set out to do something and succeeded in what it set out do in glorious fashion.

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