Review: Wassup Rockers (2005)


Directed by: Larry Clark | 106 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Jonathan Velasquez, Francisco Pedrasa, Milton Velasquez, Usvaldo Panameno, Eddie Velasquez, Carlos Ramirez, Iris Zelaya

Larry Clark, the director of “Kids” and “Ken Park” among others, clearly has a preference for very young teens who lead a slightly too adult life. The group of boys from “Wassup Rockers” found Clark when he went out for a photo shoot for a French magazine in south Los Angeles. He photographed the boys extensively, and they told him about their life in South Central. It was then that Clark knew he wanted to do more with this, and the stories he then heard Clark eventually incorporated into the film. Because of this, and because the boys all use their own names, (especially the first part of) the film comes across as natural. Clark has made up the events that take place later.

The boys are all likeable and almost endearing. That they have to do their utmost to keep up the appearance of their careless behavior and appearance, is occasionally visible, but only makes the whole thing more realistic. That boredom is a big motivation for many young people is made clear in this film, so that as a viewer you no longer expect anything to happen after a while. The pace of the events that take place later in the movie is also considerably faster than in the first (longer) part of the movie. Due to the change of tempo and the surprising turn, this part is difficult for the viewer to believe and to take seriously. While terrible things are actually happening, the atmosphere remains shallow and giggly. This is reinforced by the boys’ behavior, which seems to show that this is just any day like any other.

What is striking about the film is that it contains relatively little sex. There is a lot of talk about it (boast) and it seems to happen a number of times, but it does not really lead to sexual acts. This is by the way not a loss; a Larry Clark movie can also do without. The scene in which the boys are at home with two rich girls in Beverly Hills, especially the conversation between Kiko and one of the girls, is one of the most fun and deepest moments in the film in terms of dialogue. The collision with the police officer is also very comical, although the injustice of the way in which the boys are treated because of their origin also lurks through it.

The supporting roles are a lot less natural, but no less entertaining. Janice Dickinson (who we know as a worn-out actress and bitchy judge on “America’s Next Top Model”) plays an alcoholic actress who wants to give cute Kiko a bath. Before that, the boys had already ended up in the garden of a Hollywood actor, who is very reminiscent of Clint Eastwood, which is perhaps just a painful case of coincidence. It’s fun, the guys are fun and different, but none of this is very original. Clark does many of the same things over and over; Perhaps it would have been better to make a real documentary, and not always fall into an apocalyptic ending.

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