A Day in the Life
Label: Lions Gate Films
Author: Rashid Grier
Whoever invented the Redbox DVD rental kiosk machine must be a millionaire genius. For those who are unfamiliar, imagine a diverse assortment of DVDs all at your selection, for the simple cost of a dollar. Sound too good to be true? Well it is. A majority of these movies are duds that either never made it to the silver screen or performed poorly in theatres, were too bizarre to market into box offices, or are children's movies. However, every so often, there are gems buried in the machine. Enter "A Day in the Life," written, directed and produced by Kirk Jones, better known to rap aficionados as Sticky Fingaz, one of the founding baldheads of the super-amped group Onyx.
It was upon returning one of my rentals that I came across Sticky's new independent film. I glanced at it quickly and skimmed the summary. After reading, I wrote it off as cliché, but perhaps it had potential for an afternoon watch. It lingered in my mind for the rest of the week, and when I passed the kiosk again after grocery shopping (Redbox is conveniently stationed by the exit doors of Stop & Shop), it was gone... for days. Must be good, I thought. Well good was an understatement.
Sticky Fingaz isn't creating an autobiographical rap film in this gritty production; this isn't a nod to "Get Rich or Die Tryin'." Instead it is a film with a very general, yet well done, bread-and-butter plot. For example, the usual angles are covered here: drugs, sex, money, guns, and cops. Also, you won't find yourself getting attached to these characters, or rooting against the bad guy. Sticky throws these character and plot details away, in exchange for a movie that focuses largely on your ears, not on your mind. This formula may sound bare on paper, but the end result is a natural production that is sonically pleasing and visually aesthetic.
From the opening of the film to the closing, the entire experience is very organic. This isn't your big Hollywood production à la "Belly" directed by the king of music videos, Hype Williams. Nor is it your quick, awkward MTV production like "Carmen: A Hip Hopera." This is a straight-up Hip-Hop movie, with a banging soundtrack and a plot that won't wow you, but definitely keeps you watching. Oh yeah, did I mention that every line is done in rhyme? And that none of the actors or actresses half-step either? YES... it's that TIGHT.
According to the opening credits, Sticky Fingaz - who reminds viewers in the DVD Extras how independent the film is - wrote every line for all the characters. Taking this into consideration, one can immediately see the thought and creativity that was put into this project. As an avid movie watcher I can dissect a film by observing three elements: setting, soundtrack, and dialogue. Sticky focuses on these three elements throughout the film and makes sure that they are balanced; preventing one from outshining the other.
For example, each scene has a particular setting, which usually supports the plot. This observation may seem pretty basic, but what isn't basic is how the physical space of the settings are extremely tight. The scenery is never all encompassing. Sticky chooses these places to compliment or enhance the characters and their actions; not to overshadow them. A great example of this space and the affect it has on the film is the bar scene. In the beginning of the scene, the two characters are so close physically and mentally, but by the end they are far apart as one of them chooses a different mindset. The build-up of this scene is short but very effective, not only because of the setting but the soundtrack as well. The soundtrack serves as the backbone by providing a haunting track with thumping piano keys and harrowing vocals.
I expected Sticky to have an exceptional ear for music, but this musical production reflects how talented he really is. All the scenes and background music are paired perfectly. My favorite track is during the scene between Sticky and his arms supplier. The beat is uplifting, and somewhat regal, it almost reminds me of medieval times. This mood would be fitting as Sticky is gearing up to do some serious damage. Back and forth the two characters talk about the right weapons needed to get the job done, and play off each other's rhymes like pros.
The weapons scene is a great example of how characters feed off each other lyrically. But to be fair, Sticky and the artist he works with have been at the art of rhyming for years. Even so, they still don't steal the show! The scene between the crime boss, 'Black' Ike Smith, and hitman, King Khi, contains one of the smoothest raps in the entire film. Their scene is diabolical, yet laid back all at the same time:
Doorman: "The hitman you called is here."
Boss: "Alright, show him in, and I'll be downstairs."
Hitman: "Hello Mr. Black, I'm King Khi, pleased to meet you,
I understand you're having some complications with some people."
Boss: "Yeah, that's right. I want these f$^& shot up in the brain.
"See, I don't care what it cost, see, money ain't a thang."
Boss: "Hey Kim! What's on the menu today?
Are you hungry? You want this bitch to fix you a plate?"
Hitman: "I'd like to conclude our business, if that's ok?"
Boss: "Oh, you get right down to it, huh? You don't play."
It's very impressive that they capture the attitude of their characters and personify it into their raps. Unfortunately, I don't have enough space to even discuss the comic relief characters, the cops.
Ultimately, "A Day In the Life," is a hybrid film and a musical journey that one must embark on. Excellent casting, great dialogue, a thumping soundtrack, and a decent plot are what make this film a must-see and a must-own. Oddly enough, as a movie preview the film includes "Belly." This confused me because "Belly" was released almost ten years ago. Also, besides casting Nas and DMX, and a few other popular faces, the film failed to focus on the music genre. The distinction between the two lies in that one represents the lifestyle that influences the musical genre known as rap, whereas the other represents the genre itself.
Filming: 10 of 10
Music: 10 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 10 of 10
Originally posted: September 1, 2009