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Synapse Films presents
God Has a Rap Sheet (2002)

"So, you are a mistake, you made a mistake. Which one are you in for?"
- God (John Ford Noonan)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 27, 2004

Stars: John Ford Noonan, Peter Appel, Bonz Malone, Mohammed Djellouli, Andre De Leon
Other Stars: Shane Franklin, Ken Lin, Mark Love, Tommy Houlihan, William Smith
Director: Kamal Ahmed

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, violence, nudity, sexuality, racial and ethnic slurs)
Run Time: 01h:55m:31s
Release Date: September 28, 2004
UPC: 654930303597
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BC-B+ B+

DVD Review

Kamal Ahmed is probably best known as a creator of The Jerky Boys, which was something of a renowned bit of lowbrow humor. Ahmed has since moved on, however, to writing and directlng this intense little character drama. While the street character of his earlier work is still present, it's lifted to a more substantial level with the interplay of types in surprising ways.

One hot summer night under a full moon in New York City, eight diverse men find themselves stuck in a holding cell for various petty crimes, together with a homeless man who insists that he's God (John Ford Noonan). The eight have an edgy hostility towards one another, such as Josh Zmirov (Peter Appel), a Hasidic Jew with a thing for transvestite hookers and Mohamed Aziz (Mohammed Djellouli), an Arab cab driver whose wife is dying of cancer. Two streetwise punks, Bigrollabills (Bonz Malone) and Oscar (Andre De Leon) are contrasted with a pair of overly-well-groomed record industry executives, Ian (Shane Franklin) and John (Ken Lin). Anthony (Mark Love) is a small-time hood working for a mobster, while Patrick (Tommy Houlihan) is an Irish-American who can barely contain his rage.

The result of throwing together such an odd assortment and forcing them to interact is reminiscent of such single-room dramas as 12 Angry Men. After the initial knee-jerk differences are aired, the axes begin to shift and different alliances and hostilities based on race, ethnicity and class form, giving the interactions a fluid dynamic egged on by God's exhortations and frequently comic monologues. The dialogue has an easy improvisational feel, although the commentary indicates that the cast stuck to the script for the most part. The characters are all richly drawn, with some interesting quirks and issues.

Playwright John Ford Noonan makes for a good lead, finding a character somewhere between Santa Claus, a guru, and the guy who mutters to himself as he rummages through the trash. Appel occasionally takes his character a bit over the top, but as we learn there are reasons for this. Perhaps the strongest actor, however, is the amateur Tommy Houlihan, who radiates intensity and venom in a terrifying manner. You don't want to meet this man on a dark or even a well-lit street. Veteran actor William Smith makes a memorable appearance near the end, testing the bonds that have formed between the men.

Stylistically the low-budget independent film offers a number of different shooting methods, with flashbacks that have a more saturated, but slightly dreamy feel to them. The video-generated opening credits have a cheesy 1970s television feel to them, which is a bit indulgent since the relation between the content and '70s television is not readily apparent. Although it doesn't have the strongest narrative thread, the tale does make for an interesting little character piece.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen transfer suffers from quite a bit of video artifacting at times. Reds are oversaturated and break up into pixelation throughout, as do yellows on occasion (such as during the opening credits). Otherwise it looks pretty good, with decent black levels and good detail and texture for a low-budget film shot on short ends.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround track is quite acceptable for the most part, though dialogue is occasionally difficult to understand, mostly due to dialects. Dialogue is center-oriented, while the surrounds are primarily used for ambient sound and the score from the Sacred Grove Posse, Kamal Ahmed's band. The music has good range and thumping bass that's suitable for the urban subject matter.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Kamal Ahmed
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:07m:42s

Extra Extras:
  1. Soundtrack CD excerpts
Extras Review: Synapse provides a full package for this picture, starting off with the director's commentary. He hardly pauses, filling in plenty of background detail about the cast and the filming as well as clarifying a few plot and character points that don't quite come across in the film on a first viewing. A short making of film (13m:37s) is largely incomprehensible, at least to non-New Yorkers, but it does include footage of cast readings and raw shooting material. Four deleted scenes of character segments, totalling about 5 minutes, are also included to amplify the situations a bit; there's also a sequence in the women's holding cell that is only heard and not seen in the main feature. The loss of the claustrophobic setting dictated that this segment be removed, and it was a good decision. There's a trailer and 11 cuts from the soundtrack CD, totalling about 31 minutes, are also included. Not bad.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

An intense and interesting character study, with some quirky moments. The extras are worthwhile, though the transfer has some issues. Worth checking out if you're in the mood for something different.


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