Cam'ron, Juelz Santana, Hell Rell, Funkmaster Flex, 40 Cal, Big Joe
(Asylum Entertainment; US theatrical: 25 Apr 2006; UK theatrical: 25 Apr 2006; 2006)
They say everyone has a story - and, apparently, in the cutthroat world of hip hop, it’s Scarface. The obsession with Brian DePalma’s ultra-violent depiction of Miami in the early ‘80s continues to resonate with rappers in a way few other films could ever match - and the allure is as elusive as ever. Some claim it’s the ‘up by the bootstraps’ determination of Cuban refugee Tony Montana. Others argue over the ‘gansta’ elements of the character’s life. A few point to the drugs and debauchery. But what’s clear is that, for some reason, the fictional tale of a Fidel Castro’s least favorite son inspires almost every street poet in the game to take their own personal life and retrofit it into some manner of cinematic epic.
A good example? Cam’ron’s Odyssey in the making Killa Season. As with many in the urban music scene, the artist alternately known as Cameron Giles grew up tough. He excelled in sports (there are clips early on of his skills as a highly recruited basketball star) but then turned to ‘hustling’ as a way of making money. Soon, if we are to believe the bulky narrative that makes up this two-hour plus vanity project, he became one of the biggest dope dealers in Harlem, moving effortlessly from marijuana to heroin like the gateway given they are. Along the way, Cam’ron’s onscreen alias Flea eludes the authorities, watches his under-age niece get shot over some tacky jewelry and a Papa John’s pizza, argues street ethics with a toddler, busts multiple caps in a myriad of asses, and witnesses drug mules take a dump in order to retrieve their anally smuggled stash. Solid.
It would be nice to say that Killa Season is a wild ride, a ripped from the headlines slice of authentic ‘hood life that reflects the current conditions in America’s struggling inner cities. It would also be nice to have a frosty cold beer right about now, but neither is going to happen within the context of this discussion. For his part, Cam’ron tries like a titan. Having absorbed the crime spree playbook from the usual sources and suspects (the Scarface posters in the background are clearly there for more than interior decorating), he spits out his version in a way that’s both borderline believable and out of this world worthless. Take for instance the first time Flea meets with his big time connection, Gordo. As the two debate the merits of higher education and/or skipping school and going to the NBA, the pusher compares his product to Hondas and Ferraris. Of course, when he decides to stay small time (for now), Flea makes his ‘Hyundai’ preference clear.
Or what about the scene where our cash-engorged hero heads over to a hot car shop - and is immediately insulted and demeaned by the owner. Flea has $210, 000 green to hand over to this jackass, and yet the man with the fancy motors rags on him like a snob at a garden party - and he’s a car thief, or at the very least, a criminal front for an illegal vehicle ring…and he’s copping ‘tude? From its ten years out of date use of slang (“Word” is indeed the word of the hour) to the bumbling nature of local law enforcement (one memorable moment has the officer supervising the Flea case whining like Joe Besser with bunched panties) Killa Season stops substantially short of being a noble failure. Instead, it comes across like an easy way to hide some ill gotten gains while promoting the star’s latest album release.
Did we forget to mention that Cam’ron raps here? Would it surprise you? Well, it will once you witness what has to be the movie’s crowning achievement - Flea’s hip hop eulogy for his dead grandfather. That’s right, as the parishioners mourn the passing of a great man, someone the pastor points out “raised a family, worked hard every day, and loved his children”, our hero is asked to say a few words in his honor. What we get is a near five minute paean to pushing dope, whacking punks, and ‘keeping it real.’ While there are occasional nods to being part of a biological unit, Cam’ron’s crazy homage to his home life seems wildly inappropriate for the moment, and for the movie. This is especially true when you realize that we never knew Flea could rap…or that this was going to be a musical…or that the track would be so lousy.
We get one more outward musical moment in the movie (there are about five songs in total taken from the Killa Season LP) and it too is a doozy. While on a road trip to Atlanta - which seems to consist of a single day spent watching slutty Georgian strippers sweat on each other - Flea celebrates his position and prominence while his ‘homies’ make it rain. Breasts are exposed. Vaginas are suggested. Fake lesbianism in all its dollar=filled g-string gratuity is offered - and all the while Cam’ron sits back with an ever-present blunt in his mouth, miming the words to some “aren’t I something special” single. Granted, one does expect for a tie-in project to actually tie-in to what’s being promoted. But Killa Season forgets about the music early and often. By the time we’ve run through 127 minutes of narrative, we’ve experienced more BS than beats.
In the end, it’s ambition that undermines this movie. Cam’ron has stated that he would love to make Killa Season into a 20 part tale of Flea’s continuing escapades. This “first” installment follows his rise, his various beefs, his narrow escape from a set-up, and preps us for even more 2 Lifeless Crew tripe to come. Indeed, the film doesn’t end so much as run out of time. We are left hanging as to what will happen - Flea and his remaining crew holed up in a New Jersey ‘crib’, the man’s soon to be ex-wife selling him out to a bunch of baddies whose only issue seems to be undying jealously of our star. But then she gives the thugs an address in Queens - after we’ve heard the voice over narrative state, very clearly, that a Garden State rendezvous is where our ‘hero’ and his minions will regroup. Huh?
With dialogue that sounds like it was improvised, abandoned, and then half-remembered through a chronic-induced haze, acting which redefines the words ‘amateurish’, ‘dull’, and ‘ineffectual’ and a storytelling style that avoids logic, meaning, or clear character motivation, Killa Season is the worst kind of entertainment industry ego trip. While the continuing legacy of Scarface as an inspiration is questionable at best, the reason said cinematic signpost lingers is not. DePalma’s morality play is a real “movie” Cam’ron’s quest for celluloid respectability is a mockery.
Rating: 1 WTF