The Bowman Trilogy, Part 3: The Last Pocket
Never one to mince words, Darius asks his father for an explanation as to why he abandoned his wife and child. This is the pivotal scene in the movie, the moment when father and son reunite, the father confesses his sins, and the son gains insight into the forces that have shaped his life. It's an serious situation, sure to bring up age-old hurts and unearth a panoply of confusing and conflicting emotions, from anger to joy. In other words, this is a moment that Vince Bowman is woefully unqualified to shoot, and he knows it. That's why the entire conversation is filmed from the back seat of the car, so only the backs of their heads are visible. This also gives him the freedom to dub over this entire scene if need be, since he doesn't have to worry about the dialogue syncing up with the actors' mouths& or so he thought. Turn to the person next to you. Ask them to face away from you and tell a story. Notice how you can still tell that their mouths are moving. Bowman was so certain that the actor playing Ray would flub this all-important speech and that he'd end up having to dub it over that he didn't bother having him say anything at all during the scene. The guy's head remains absolutely still.
Ray's story is uncharacteristically interesting for a Vince Bowman film. The telling of it, however, is characteristically ruined, in this case by the addition of images from the story popping up over the shot of Ray and Darius sitting in the car.
The Sad Tale of Ray& um& er& Blackfarb. Hey, It's Not My Fault There Are No Last Names in This Thing:
Twenty years ago, it was a simpler, more innocent time. Ray was a simple, innocent lieutenant to a simple, innocent crime lord named Deuce, who controlled all the vice in Harlem. (Cue an image of Deuce standing there. Just& standing there. Yes, Vince Bowman did hire an actor to play this thoroughly pointless role.) Deuce was like a father to Ray, just like Ray was not like a father to Darius. The money was good, the work was easy, and it afforded Ray a flashy lifestyle that attracted the attention of a girl named Anita. Ray and Anita fell in love, despite a thirteen year age gap between them. A son was born into this happy union.
Much to Ray's surprise, his idyllic life of violent crime was suddenly subject to some unpleasantness. Deuce had another lieutenant, a hothead by the name of Earl. (Cue an image of Earl, played by Hawk Henderson, who would later go on to star as the nefarious Rich Nice in Urban Ninjas. To show how bad of a dude Earl is, this floating vision stabs some dude. Well, not "stabs" exactly. More like "waves a knife near some dude, causing him to fall over.") During an ordinary, run of the mill armored car robbery led by Ray, a stray bullet struck an innocent bystander. As it so happened, that bystander was Earl's son. Earl wanted to kill Ray, but Deuce wouldn't allow it, so Earl hired mysterious hitman to take out Ray's wife and son. Although it pained him beyond all belief to part with the family he loved, Ray did what he had to do to protect them. He put them on a plane to the West Coast with a sack of money. (Cue a still image of an airplane scrolling across the screen.) Since then he's sent them money every year through a distant relative in order to protect their location. Meanwhile, Ray gave up his flashy lifestyle for the good of the family he loved, but could never see. He bought a pool hall, and for years, his only source of any happiness has been playing the occasional game of pool.
Quite a story, huh? Too bad Darius doesn't believe a word of it. Nope, he's sure his old man is full of it. Sure, Cliff referred to himself as Ray's former enforcer, implying some sort of mob ties. Sure, Darius grew up on money that a distant relative mysteriously seemed all too willing and able to provide. But there is a logical explanation for all of that: magic. Still, Ray insists it's all true and says that the hit may still be active, so Darius must leave New York immediately. Darius offers him a proposition - they play one game of pool; if Ray wins, Darius will leave New York like he wants, if Darius wins, Ray can never play pool again.
Let's recap, here. Ray just finished saying how, although it broke his heart, he had to send Darius and Anita away and never have any contact with them. Despite this, he found a way to support them for the past two decades. All this time, the only thing that soothed his broken heart and took his mind off the constant worry that perhaps Earl's hitman had found his family after all, was playing pool. Pool is his last shred of happiness. Darius's immediate response to all this is not, "Wow, Dad, how can I thank you?" It's not, "That must have been incredibly difficult for you." No, his first response is, "Pool makes you happy, huh? Let's get rid of that, then." What an ingrate. If my dad ever told me that story, even if he was full of shit, I'd still be grateful that he cared enough about me to come up with such a badass lie. At least I could go back to California and tell my friends, "My dad's not a deadbeat, he's just dedicated his life to protecting me from a mob hitman." If I whipped that story out at a bar, I'd be so deep in pussy, it would take a team of spelunkers a week to get me out. But not Darius.
Darius and Ray have their game. Ray sucks just as much as Cliff, but at least he's a little cooler about it. Still, this epic match between father and son, both supposedly world-class pool players, is about as exciting as watching two old ladies play shuffleboard, only without the exciting prospect of seeing a broken hip. Darius wipes the floor with his old man, and only has to sink the eight ball to strip his dad of the one thing that makes him happy and earn the right to stay in New York and be killed by a mob assassin. I'll give Vince Bowman this - the last shot is the most complicated one in the movie, and he does sink it on camera. It's not an amazing shot - any decent player would be able to do it - but it's more than I could do. The eight ball goes in, and the cue ball rolls to a stop in the middle of the table. Game over. Or is it?
This movie features two games of pool, both of them played out fully in front of the camera. Throughout them both, Vince Bowman could have used simple tricks of cinematography and editing to make them look far more exciting than they are, but he doesn't. Now, however, now that the game is over and Darius is the clear victor, Bowman decides to use editing to make himself look worse. Even though the previous shot clearly showed the eight ball going in the pocket and the cue ball coming to a stop comfortably on the table, the next shot shows the cue ball rolling into a side pocket. Darius scratches, and Ray wins the game. I could get upset with Bowman for having two conflicting shots back to back, but that's not the real crime here. With this shot, the last shot of pool in this entire movie, Bowman showed that he knew how to use editing to spice up the game. He could have been doing it this entire time, but he chose not to. I hate him so much, I can taste it. It is not pleasant.
True to his word, Darius agrees to leave New York in a few hours. Cut to a few hours later, and he's sitting in a friend's apartment, getting ready to leave the city. Suddenly, Cliff appears in the doorway, holding the most ridiculous fake gun I've ever seen. I realize this was shot on a tiny budget, but there are $2.99 policeman costumes at Discount Halloween Superstore that come with more convincing guns than this thing. It looks like a flashlight taped to a megaphone. Regardless, if you haven't figured it out, Cliff is the killer who was hired to take out Darius and his mother all those years ago. He's been pretending to be Ray's friend all this time. Sure, he could have easily killed Darius earlier when they first met, but he's doing it now instead. Okay. Why not.
Darius tries hugging Cliff to death, but it shocked when it doesn't have the intended effect. Out of ideas, he closes his eyes, expecting a bullet, or whatever that "gun" shoots, to blow his brains out any second. He hears two shots, and opens his eyes again, only to see his father standing over Cliff's body, the vaguely gunnish object in his hand.
We cut to an indeterminate amount of time later. Darius is sweeping the floor of a Harlem barbershop. The owner lets him know that his barber's license just arrived in the mail, meaning he can finally cut hair, which is evidently his dream. Ray arrives moments later, and Darius cheerfully shares the good news with his father. But that's not the only surprise he has for dear old dad, no sir! Out from the back room steps Anita, the wife Ray thought was dead! I guess she had just been waiting in the back of this random barbershop all this time, in case Ray dropped by. How patient of her. But wait, something's fishy...
Ray: "You said she was dead."
Darius: "No, I said she was in a better place."
Anita: "Oh. Right before Darius came out here, we moved from L.A. to San Francisco."
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Ray thought the woman he loved was dead! What a jackass!
Now might be a good time to revisit the initial purpose of our examination of The Bowman Trilogy, namely, to see the evolution of the malformed half-mind of the man behind the mind-bendingly insipid Urban Ninjas. One of the stylistic choices that made Urban Ninjas so fascinating was the use of a textual summation to explain what happened to the main characters after the story ended. Well, that wasn't the first time that the Bowmanizer busted out that particular trick. Observe:
Great stuff. Just terrific.
I could forgive a lot about The Last Pocket. Sure, the acting is bad, and actually becomes increasingly worse with every new character (I'm not even sure Anita is human), but I could let that go. Sure, the whole point of this story is that a man wants to find his father, and yet, from the moment he finds him, he seems determined to ruin his life, but that is just a minor nuisance. Sure, large portions of this movie were shot in front of a green screen for absolutely no earthly reason, since none of those shots contribute anything meaningful to the film, but I can chalk that up to youthful ignorance. I could forgive all that. I won't, but I could. No, the real reason to hate The Last Pocket is because it shows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Vince Bowman's tireless dedication to shooting himself in the foot. I want you to imagine a rat in a cage, with a button on the floor that gives the rat a painful electric shock every time it steps on it. The rat would learn to avoid that button after one or two mishaps. Bowman treats the button as his own personal trampoline. This movie screws itself over before it even begins. Putting Adam Aronson in front of a blank green screen is like saying, "My movie sucks! Try to catch all the mistakes!" Then there's the cabbie who gives Darius advice to nowhere, the bouncer who makes a big deal about unlatching a nonexistent chain, the doorway that couldn't possibly lead anywhere, and of course, the pool games that clearly could have been edited to be at least watchable, if not exciting. Vince Bowman clearly wants to be a filmmaker. He does. But his commitment to screwing himself over is just agonizing to witness, and it has never been displayed better than in The Last Pocket.
The scores below reflect The Last Pocket only.
|Music / Sound||-5|
Read on for my final take on the whole trilogy.