TADFF 2017: Lowlife
There’s nothing like a good crime caper film to get people excited, and Ryan Prows’ first feature film, Lowlife does just that.
Using his Taco restaurant as a front, Teddy ‘Bear’ Haynes (Mark Burnham) is an organ runner and pimp, using illegal immigrants as his main supply. He has El Monstruo (Ricardo Adam Zarate), as his heavy, a luchador with anger issues who is proud of his lineage, but ashamed that he cannot live up to his family’s legacy as a champion to his people. His wife, Teddy’s adopted daughter Kaylee (Santana Dempsey), is pregnant and unbeknownst to her, is an eligible organ donor in Teddy’s eyes. He has no qualms about sacrificing her for money, and through a series of crazy connections, El Monstruo must reclaim his honour and rescue his wife and unborn child from peril.
It’s been a long time since a crime caper has been this heartfelt and fun, and it takes talent to create a story that combines danger, comedy and compassion so well. Prows and his writing team does this by creating a narrative for each character and cleverly converges a complex web of timelines in a madcap climax. The performances were excellent too. Burnham gives us an absolutely despicable turn as Teddy; and Nicki Micheaux was wonderful as Crystal the conflicted motel owner at the end of her rope as she becomes embroiled in El Monstruo and Teddy’s machinations. Zarate played El Monstruo with fantastic comedic timing and sensitivity that will certainly stay with you, and there is also an unforgettable character in Randy played by Jon Oswald, an unlikely hero that will keep you laughing through some tense scenes.
Lowlife was a crowd-pleaser at Toronto After Dark, so be sure to look for it as it makes its festival rounds. It’s a must-see for its wonderfully original story and equally memorable characters.