Monday, January 15, 2007

Movie Review: White Boys 3 Stars

One of the most interesting statistics related to album sales in the last decade is that white, suburban consumers account for over seventy-five percent of purchases of rap music. This phenomenon has spread to the cornfields and dairy farms of the Midwest, angst-ridden teenagers associating themselves somehow with the thug life of gang$tas. This is the trough from which director, Marc Levin and writer/performer, Danny Hoch feed in White Boys, a bittersweet tragicomedy about disenfranchised hip hoppers in Iowa.

Flip (Danny Hoch), Trevor (Mark Webber) and James (Dash Mihok) hate living in their podunk town in BFE. They dream of living the glamorous existence of the hardcore rappers they idolize on MTV, but thugged out in Iowa, they are viewed as wiggers at best, freaks at worst. Then, Khalid (Eugene Byrd), a middle class black kid, moves to town. When he is hassled by locals, Flip comes to his aid. Grateful, but freaked by Flip and his posse’s bogus, co-opted lifestyle, Khalid befriends the gang and is soon convinced to take them to the notoriously violent Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago.

Based on a character from Hoch’s one-man show, Jails, Hospitals and Hip Hop, White Boys is a fascinating and humorous look at the white hip hop subculture. While the film mostly hits the mark, occasionally White Boys drifts into the all-too-familiar territory of stereotype. Fortunately, Hoch’s own experiences growing up a b-boy in Brooklyn inform the story and the dialogue, which ring true. This, director Marc Levin’s second narrative feature, continues exploring the style that made Slam so exciting. White Boys will definitely keep you piqued to see veteran documentarian Levin’s next effort.

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