Archive for A Christmas Carol

R’XMAS – Abel Ferrara – 2001

Posted in 00's with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2016 by bookofdread

rxmas-poster

Christmastime is a peculiar context for a kidnapping story, but in the hands of New York provocateur Abel Ferrara it’s not really that big a surprise. No stranger to the juxtaposition of religious atmosphere and illicit dealings, (Ms. 45, Mary, The Funeral), Ferrara uses these settings as a way to humanize his criminals. In a Ferrara picture someone is always looking for salvation.

Real life thug Lillo Brancato Jr. plays a drug-dealing husband who lives with his family in a Penthouse. He’s a bit dim witted, but clearly knows his game. Drea DeMateo plays his wife, clearly the brains and balls in the family business. They have a daughter and seem to live with two older ladies, maybe her mother and aunt. This Dominican family is very like any family at Christmas time, dancing, eating laughing.

The film begins at a kid’s school performance of A Christmas Carol. A little boy in a Lincoln beard plays Scrooge and walks by the homeless giving them money. I think we can read this as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Husband, (as he is referred to in the credits), got into the drug game most likely because he didn’t speak much English and he wanted to help his family back home. We hear his wife frequently refer to the money they send back to the Dominican Republic.

He films the play with a camcorder, as human a figure as you could ask for, we see him with his family, he seems normal until he tries to bribe a toy store employee with a wad of cash to get a doll for his daughter.

Come to find out, he’s a big time cocaine dealer. He visits a separate apartment where he meets associates who give him his cut of money. Another associate meets him, and leaves his cash with him over Christmas, because he thinks he’s being followed. This gentleman is the Ghost Of Christmas Present. He represents the paranoia and the walls closing in. If husband doesn’t quit the game, something bad is going to happen.

Something bad happens. The husband is kidnapped. Wife meets with Ice-T to discuss release. He demands all the money she has and she even finds the hidden money in the separate apartment and gives it to him. He demands that if he releases her husband that she do everything in her power to get him to quit selling drugs. She agrees. This guy is the Ghost Of Christmas Future. He’s showing her what will happen if they stay on this path.

But then comes the Abel Ferarra twist. Husband and wife discuss quitting the business. Finding a new way to earn. But she says she doesn’t want to take their daughter out of private school, and he says he wont live with her mother. Then, on TV she sees the man, arrested as part of a sting on corrupt NYD officers.

Finally, we see them at a fancy party. Some associates call the husband away to the alley. In the trunk of a car we see Ice-T with a bloody plastic bag around his head. The Ghost of Christmas future is dead.
What is Ferarra saying here? Who are the most identifiable or moral characters? The crooked cop? The immigrant drug-dealers? I’m supposed to be glad the lying cop is dead, but his argument about selling drugs to kids is also sound. Ferarra provides no easy answers. There is a card at the end about Rudolph Giuliani being elected Mayor and that the story would be continued, but I’m not sure it ever was. Clocking in at a brief 83 minutes the film feels a little light/incomplete, but still a unique effort.

Despite the normalcy the family strives for, it seems that Ferrara’s New York won’t be affording them it anytime soon. At least they all end up together, and that’s as close to a Merry X-Mas in this film as you are going to get.

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