Artisan // 2001 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // October 24th, 2002
On this court...you only get one shot!
Hate is a bad concept. It is never right, or good to hate. Terms like "loathe" and "detest" have a place in everyday vocabulary, to wit: "I loathe my job" or "I really detest olive and sun-dried tomato foccacia bread." But those aforementioned sentiments are just expressions of personal preference or the reality of a career in food service. Hate, however is like the deepest, darkest black, representing the absence of color on the optical and emotional prism. Hate is the complete deficiency of joy. It is open and bottomless. There is no love, or even a little bit of "like" hanging around the rim, nor is respect layered sub-atomically beneath the surface. When you choose to use the word, you do so carefully, for you need to understand that there is no going back. When you hate mayonnaise, you want nothing even closely resembling it around you: whipped cream, marshmallow fluff, or Richard Gere. If you can tolerate a person in Burma eating a BLT while you are awake, then you probably don't hate mayonnaise. You may find it distasteful or repugnant, but you do not wish it, like little Anthony in that classic episode of The Twilight Zone, into the cornfield (unless you REALLY hate corn). The target for hate must be chosen carefully, since to articulate this empty expression as a by-product of emotion and the response to deep mental consideration is to smack karma on the backside and call it "baby." You are just asking for a kismet ass kicking.
Do not misunderstand, however. You will learn to hate one thing, if you live to be 100...and you watch The Playaz Court. One 97 minute viewing, and you will understand how and why one hates, why hate is necessary, and perhaps, you may even learn to enjoy hating (though you really shouldn't, morally speaking). This sad excuse for a piece of film stock should be destroyed, like the legacy of Hitler or the collected works of and inspired by Danielle Steele. This movie doesn't begin to understand what movies are all about, and uses race and race baiting as a means of telling an overly tepid tale about street justice. Now, it is common for people to hate lawyers. In some states, it's even constitutionally mandated. But the actions of this joke judge and jurists here, either in practice or in preparation (or later on, in play acting), are enough to turn Shakespeare's oft-quoted suggestion about attorney assassination into an ethical edict. There is just no excuse for the horrendous plotting, hyper-demonstrative overacting, and ridiculous camera trick crap present. (When was the last time ANYONE used split screen and Thomas Crown Affair multiple mini-frames successfully?) The Playaz Court is a film that literally, loudly, and repeatedly announces its bargain basement mentality. It has Lord-lousy stunt direction, dinner theater level performances, and a white man's misconception screenplay. The film balances its entire dramatic integrity and believability on a single, borderline B.S. premise, to wit: when someone kills a local thug drug dealer, his family and friends would cease their game of Horse to take justice into their own hands in the form of a pick-up People's arbitration. Further plot details would lend credence to the notion that there may have actually been one. To list characters and their strengths/mistakes would be to do the same.
Someone from the CDC should investigate Artisan as being a carrier of tainted DVD product. The Playaz Court is an infected, potentially fatal dose of claptrap. There is a 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer that highlights all the juvenile visual vomit the filmmakers throw up onto the screen (things like Waking Life style animation and black and white flash hack backs). The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo surround does an excellent job of amplifying the yelling as line reading and halfhearted hip-hop that passes for underscoring. There is a trailer, filmographies, production notes and some screen tests but frankly, all this bogus bonus footage should have been better reserved for the one viewer out of a trillion who would give seven rats asses after watching this mess. But the biggest joke, and a prime builder of the all-powerful feeling of hate, is the commentary track. There is something really insidious about a couple of novice movie makers, so entranced with seeing their names up in title font that they have to spend the entire track kissing each other's talentless backsides. They offer personal triumph as insight and criticism as part of the learning curve. They even drag poor first time performer Arlen Escarpeta into the mix, hoping his minority reporting will distract the listener from wondering why two white boys made this lame Lay Lawyerz in the 'Hood. Combined together into one giant ball of odium, The Playaz Court will be, hopefully, the one and only time you experience the empty and evil emotion of hate. That is of course, until Hayden Christensen makes another film.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director and Producer Commentary Track