Case Number 03987: Small Claims Court


Lionsgate // 2002 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 28th, 2004

The Charge

You either get down or lay down.

The Case

Beans wants to move up in the world. And he's willing to go to whatever lengths necessary. If that mean beating a man's skull in, or gunning down countless competitors, so be it. He sees his destiny at the top of the drug-world and will do whatever it takes to achieve it. On the unforgiving streets of Philly, no one is immune to Beans' scramble for power.

It is this willingness to open fire -- and operate on a level of zero conscience -- that propels him upward (or downward.) He gets on the fast track to gangster infamy, and leaves a wake of bodies in his path.

State Property chronicles the rise of a kingpin, and details the moves he makes to grab that power. Beans employs no subtle tactics, no sly maneuvering, no carefully formed plan of attack.

What he does is kill people -- anybody and everybody. He poses this threat, time and time again, to reluctant business associates: "You either get down or lay down." And more often than not, they lay down, often next to their brains.

Beans accumulates monstrous wealth, and seems destined for invulnerability -- the cops are on his payroll and every dealer either works for him or fears him -- until one day, he shoots to kill and doesn't finish the job.

Now he's faced with the very real prospect of being snitched out and sent away for a long, long time, thus becoming "state property."

Well, that's the plot pretty much. It's a blow-by-blow (and I mean that literally) handbook on how to rise to power on the streets, if you are willing to do anything to do it.

That said, State Property is one of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen.

It carries itself with an air of validity and gritty realism, but has nothing to say, save this: killing is cool. The sheer ruthlessness of Beans, his apparent utter lack of a soul and any redeeming qualities at all, left me empty inside.

Here I was watching the main character committing crime after crime after crime, and doing it in brutal ways. I wouldn't call him a protagonist; he is basically an antagonist in a world of antagonists.

In fact, save for the arresting officers at the end, I can't think of a single decent character, a single person to root for. That's why I felt hollow. There were no stories of these gangsters looking for a way out of the underworld, no feelings of victimization, nothing.

This may be the point...but if this film anything other than a meditation on evil, I hazard to guess it's nothing more than a gratuitous exercise in street justice. And I lean toward the latter. There is no subtlety here. There is indifferent killing blanketed by blaring rap, lots of breasts, and exploding squibs.

There may have been potential her, but the filmmakers squandered it.

State Property comes in widescreen format with a clean transfer. The 5.1 mix is effective, but nothing terribly impressive. Lions Gate offers a cornucopia of special features though.

The actors' auditions are welcome to watch after the movie, just to show these guys as actors not thugs. The dancers' auditions are nothing more than a montage of girls gyrating and exposing their breasts. A ho-hum behind-the-scenes featurette is also there, as well as some equally ho-hum deleted scenes. But I'll give credit where credit is due: at least the studio put some effort into it. Director Abdul Malik Abbott has a commentary track where we learn the difficulties of shooting on a minimal budget, and the tension that can arise when filming on actual drug-dealer streets. Some music videos round out the selection.

Basically, State Property takes itself seriously, and that's a bad thing. It is so violent and soulless, low-budget tongue-in-cheek humor (or at the very least a decent character to root for) would have been its only saving grace, thus making it (at best) a decent social commentary or, on the other end, an inconsequential slice of gangland fluff. Alas, that is not the case, and State Property becomes something worse: a wasteland.

Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 67

Perp Profile
Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Director commentary
* Making-of Featurette
* Deleted scenes
* Actors/Dancers auditions
* Three music videos
* Trailer

* IMDb