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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
When Thugs Cry (2002)

"Man, it's a crazy world we livin' in!"
- Jeffrey "Rhythm" Love

Review By: Robert Edwards   
Published: September 07, 2003

Stars: Jah-Rista, Soundmaster T
Other Stars: Suzette Lloyd
Director: Parris Reaves

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, strong sexual content, drug use and some violence
Run Time: 01h:35m:57s
Release Date: August 19, 2003
UPC: 012236143062
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ C-B-B- D+

DVD Review

Writer/producer/director Parris Reaves, in When Thugs Cry, paints a picture of two would-be rap stars, Jeffrey Love a.k.a. Rhythm (Jah-Rista) and his brother Terry (Soundmaster T), who head to Chicago from Alabama when they learn that their mother has OD'ed and is in the hospital.

A year later, having realized that their prospects for success are much greater in the big city, they are still in Chicago. Jeffrey has married Tiffany (Nefra Brown) and has a small son, both of whom he neglects in favor of spending time in the studio. Terry has taken up with Michelle (Kenya Robertson), and we watch the brothers as they fight, try to keep going under difficult financial circumstances, and make it to the big time.

Self-proclaimed "guerilla" filmmaker Reaves' visual style is curiously inconsistent. In many scenes, he uses stylized, supersaturated colors and/or overexposure to distinguish flashbacks from the present, or to emphasize violence and emotion. This care is unfortunately diluted by the crudity of much of the filming and editing, which has amateurish mistakes such as random zooms and clumsy inserts. And the camera always seems a little too close to the characters, giving them no room to breathe.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the film is its plot, which seems hastily assembled and poorly thought through. Characters are introduced haphazardly, motivation for certain events is never made clear, and there is no real resolution or closure. It almost seems like the plot is an excuse for the music video-like performances that punctuate the film, rather than having anything to say on its own.

No, actually the most frustrating aspect of the film is in its unquestioning acceptance of the lifestyle and events it portrays. Jeffrey casually cheats on his wife, but is of course furious when he suspects her of fooling around, and the film accepts this as the natural order of events. Poor mama uses crack and heroin, but there is no attempt to examine or understand the conditions that would have led to her becoming a drug user in the first place. And the ultimate irony is that Jeffrey gives a compassioned "I have to do the right thing" speech, in complete ignorance that it is in fact his behavior that is causing problems not only for himself, but those around him.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Much of the footage is deliberately overexposed or features artificially-manipulated colors, and these come through well on the transfer. In the more straightforward sequences, colors are generally bright and fairly accurate, but the darker end of the spectrum is squashed and often turns to murk.

Artisan's packaging contradicts itself by claiming both "Formatted from Its Original Version To Fit Your Screen" and "Presented in the original 1.33:1 format," and somehow gets it wrong on both accounts. In fact the DVD is nonanamorphic widescreen in a variety of aspect ratios, most often around 1.66:1.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The extensive music sequences come through well in this DD 5.1 mix, with lots of clarity, range, and use of bass. However, dialogue often suffers, and sounds artificial, as if an original mono or stereo recording had simply been spread equally around the five channels.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring When Thugs Cry video release
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Printed insert with chapter listing
Extras Review: Is it or isn't it? The trailer looks like an original theatrical trailer, up until a final screen that announces "In Stores Everywhere August 2003." In any case, the transfer is considerably worse than the film itself. Spanish subtitles are included, although they don't even begin to capture the flavor of the expletive-ridden dialogue, and are sometimes flat out wrong, to the extent of misspelling the names of the protagonists, and renaming Selma, Alabama to Salem!

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

Writer/Producer/Director Parris Reaves' third feature, When Thugs Cry, is a surprisingly inconsistent, sometimes amateurish effort, depicting two brothers' efforts to make it as rap stars in the big city. While the music is good, this film has little else going for it.

 


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