Lionsgate // 2003 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // February 27th, 2004
The only way out of the 'hood is in a body bag.
Robinson Jacobs (Bizzy Bone, formerly of the Grammy-winning R&B group Bone, Thugs and Harmony) is a young gang member who has a chance to succeed in life. He has a standing offer from Morehouse College and a girlfriend who thrives to see him succeed. Meanwhile, there is a serial killer who is offing people left and right in the 'hood. All the murders are connected by one fact: the victims all tangled with Jacobs before they died. The police immediately suspect Jacobs, and after some circumstantial evidence is planted, Jacobs goes on the run to find the real killer. Can he trust his friends, or is there some sort of dirty secret at work?
Cutthroat Alley is your average blaxploitation horror flick. The only problem is that it's at least thirty years too late. The film is nothing more than a vulgar ripoff of the Scream franchise, right down to the masked slasher with a sharp knife offing people connected to the main character. There isn't anything good in this film. It's badly acted, badly staged and badly directed, all in equal measure. Not even the murders are exciting; slasher film fans will be disappointed by the lack of any gory details. I haven't seen such bad death scenes since The Screaming Skull, and that was the MST3K version.
There isn't a cliché writer/director Timothy Wayne Folsome overlooks in this film. There is the Talking Killer, that term Roger Ebert invented for the murderer who could finish everything up but chooses instead to talk, usually in a long-winded manner. There is the Rubber Duckie rule, another Ebert term, in which the killer reveals why he turned to murder. It's usually preposterous and Cutthroat Alley doesn't change that.
The film as a whole is poorly written and paced; Folsome attempts to channel Brian De Palma but forgets to bring De Palma's sense of style and flair to the proceedings. (The score even bastardizes the score from De Palma's Dressed to Kill.)
In the lead, Bizzy Bone makes a good singer. Like countless other musician/performers before him, he fails to generate any interest or thrills at any time throughout the feature. Rapper Mack 10 is top billed, but he dies in the first ten minutes. Lucky him. The whole cast is awful, but I suspect that they took a look at Folsome's script and decided not to bother with such things as fleshing out one's character.
Artisan does the standard poor transfer with a cruddy-looking full frame image. The awkward panning-and-scanning makes me suspect that this was shot in hard-matte widescreen and then cropped for video release. Not that I would really want to see more of the image, since it's pretty awful. Colors look washed out and dull. Grain is constantly present and only gets worse with the multiple night scenes. Edge enhancement creeps to unpleasant levels. The contrast of shadows and blacks is extremely poor.
Artisan brags about the audio options, both Dolby Digital, either in 5.1 Surround or 2.0 mono. Believe me when I tell you that there isn't anything to brag about. The stereo mix is particularly terrible, sounding subdued and often muffled. The mono mix is the best option, since I could actually sit down and listen to the film without having to fiddle with the sound system. However, that's faint praise.
Extras include a self-congratulatory and dull commentary track with writer/director Timothy Wayne Folsome. At times, I was wondering to myself "Are we watching the same movie?" Also included is an unnecessary theatrical trailer, in full frame and just as bad as the film itself.
Is the film worth a purchase? Definitely not, unless you're a chronic masochist. Is it worth a rental? If you're an average viewer, the answer is no. However, if you happen to be a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and love to make nasty remarks and cracks during the feature, a rental would definitely be a good idea. It was the only way I managed to survive Cutthroat Alley.
Review content copyright © 2004 Bill Treadway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Audio Commentary Featuring Writer/Director Timothy Wayne Folsome
* Theatrical Trailer