Blue Hill Avenue (2001)
In the Image of Others
As a teen Tristan came from a good stable home but he and his mates E. Bone, Money and Simon find themselves getting drawn into the world of drugs when after a street game they end up being given a bag of dope. Initially users Tristan suggests that they could make money dealing, not in the streets on someone elses patch but in the corridors of school. Small time dealing turns into big time dealing as Tristan kills his first man and over the years they become big players. But whilst as the leader Tristan brings his men wealth he begins to question what he is doing when someone close to him becomes involved.
I could sum up by saying "Blue Hill Avenue" is an African-American take on "Once Upon a Time in America" but with "Goodfellas" styling. For those who don't know what that means it means we have the old as time storyline about a group of mates journey into the world of crime going from petty crime to major players and this has a style which relies on a narration from Tristan and a heavy soundtrack.
Now for me that combination makes "Blue Hill Avenue" despite being reportedly based on writer and director Craig Ross Jr's own experience unoriginal. It tells what is a familiar story and you can see the various influences from Tristan's narration being reminiscent of Henry Hill's in "Goodfellas" to the whole teen friends going from petty crooks to crime lords which was a big part of "Once Upon a Time in America". There is even a bit of "Godfather" in there with Tristan's wife moaning at him about the broken promises of being in the gang. For those who are fans of gangster movies will find themselves doing the same thing, thinking of other movies which could have been cherry picked from during the production of this.
Now in some ways there is nothing wrong with that as Craig Ross Jr. controls all of these elements nicely to create an entertaining drama which despite being an independent production looks far better than the norm. And in fairness whilst I spent most of the time thinking where I recognized elements from it kept me interested with a rawness and brutality which was unexpected.
But it is not with out its flaws and the dialogue is shall we say a little too simple and by that at times the dialogue is so cliche that one slip from its constant serious tone and it would have fallen into parody. But we also have a lack of reasoning because we are expected just to accept that despite to come from a seemingly solid family Tristan felt a desire to start dealing and then turn into a stone cold killer. It needs this extra layer to make it more than just a gangster movie in the image of others.
What this all boils down to is that "Blue Hill Avenue" is an okay gangster movie especially as it is an independent production. But at the same time it is both familiar in style and story so for fans of gang movies it will end up feeling like a movie heavily influenced by other greater gang movies.
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