Plot: Teddy (Mark Burnham) is a local crime boss who dabbles in all sorts of shady rackets, including selling organs on the black market. He has an inside man with ICE and uses that connect to find illegal immigrants, ones with no real ties and that no one will go to the authorities about. But not all of these captives are killed to have their insides harvested, as some are trafficked as sex slaves instead. Such an operation needs an enforcer and for Teddy, that muscle is El Monstruo (Ricardo Adam Zarate), a masked menace who failed to live up his family’s luchador heritage. While he is indeed an enforcer for Teddy’s syndicate, he wants out and with a baby on the way, he thinks now is the time to separate himself. But before he can do that, he must ensure and survive one of the wildest and most dangerous chain of events ever, involving a host of people connected to Teddy’s criminal activities.
Entertainment Value: A wild, tense thriller with obvious 90s inspirations, Lowlife boasts some fun dialogue, an interesting narrative, and some wild characters, including the always hilarious El Monstruo. The movie follows a wide scope of characters over the course of one out of control turn of events, telling the story in out of sequence chunks that are treated as chapters. The narrative is solid and has some fun moments, but I think the characters are the real draw here. The manic tone allows eccentric folks like Teddy, El Monstruo, and Randy to shine, not because of the story threads, but because of how interesting the roles are. Those three tend to drive the movie and are in most of the scenes, in one configuration or another. I wasn’t that taken with the other characters, but those three alone make Lowlife a lot of fun. But when the narrative does shift focus more to the others, the movie grinds a bit, but as I said, at least one of those three is almost always around. The performances are solid, but outside of the three roles I mentioned, no one stands out much. Even so, Lowlife is a fun ride with some sharp dialogue and colorful characters.
This one has some light sleaze involved, but not much nakedness. But given the depths of Teddy’s depravities, perhaps this is for the best. A rather vivid medical related scene offers up the highest volume of bloodshed in the movie, but Lowlife has frequent mild violence throughout. This might not translate into much visceral carnage, but there’s brutal moments sprinkled around. Thanks to the rage blackouts, we miss most of the masked maniac’s mayhem, however. Although not a quote machine like the movie it most pays tribute to, Lowlife has some fun lines and Teddy is the kingpin of outrageous exchanges. No matter who he talks to and what the issue is, Teddy always has some sharp words and never disappoints. Randy isn’t quite as consistent, but when he hits, it is pure magic. The narrative here has some oddness woven in to be sure, but the movie does shift between outlandish, out of control moments and more grounded ones, so it never feels that off the deep end.
Overall Insanity: 4/10
The Disc: This release from IFC Midnight & Scream Factory boasts an impressive HD visual treatment, with a crystal clear image that really shines. The colors are natural, but skew a little vivid, while contrast is flawless, with deep, inky black levels. I was dazzled by the fine detail as well, with the smallest of visual textures on showcase. Simply a dynamic, beautiful presentation. The extras include two commentaries with director Ryan Prows, the first in which cinematographer Benjamin Kitchens joins and the second has Prows with three of the film’s writers. You can also check out a behind the scenes piece, three short films/deleted scenes, and the film’s trailer.