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COLORZ OF RAGE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Nicki Richards, Dale Resteghini, Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley, Dona Wallace, Ali, Redman
Director:  Dale Resteghini
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  Artisan
Features:  None
Length:  91 Minutes
Release Date:  July 22, 2003

Film ***1/2

Colorz of Rage is a raw, emotionally charged love story for everyone who’s had their fill of cream-puff, glamorized Hollywood assembly line romances.  It’s an honest look at two very real people who struggle to keep love alive amidst the realities of life, the ugliness of prejudice, and the ebb and flow of hope.

Debbie (Richards) is black, and Tony (Resteghini) is white…something that ideally shouldn’t be anyone else’s business, but… They’re young, full of dreams, and very much in love, so much so that they throw caution to the wind and head to New York to pursue their respective dreams of singing and acting.  Both leave behind families that don’t fully understand nor support what they’re trying to accomplish, so in a sense, they arrive in the big city completely on their own.

While Debbie sings her heart out in hopes of an elusive record deal, Tony finds meager work in the form of being an extra a couple of nights a week, and as a bicycle messenger the rest of the time.  Money is always tight.  The couple tries to keep their spirits up as long as possible, but the day to day struggles of survival begin to take their toll.  Meanwhile, the two make an enemy early on in Kaleal (Ali), a young black man who joins an activist group called the New Black Revolution, though his personal designs are less pro-black than they are anti-white.  His first meeting with the couple outside a subway goes badly, and for Kaleal, the pair comes to represent everything he hates about white infiltration of black culture.

And Tony’s frustration over his and Debbie’s lack of money and inability to stay afloat soon leads to a bitter argument.  He had shared her dream of success, and was sacrificing everything to keep that dream alive, but was it real anymore?  His doubts about her as well as himself lead him to making a big mistake that catches up with him and lands him in jail.  In the meantime, Debbie’s confusion is made even more cloudy by the presence of a handsome young black man who begins to romance his way into the picture.  She loves Tony, but with him in prison and their relationship in doubt, could the answer to all her problems be simply giving up and being with a man of her own race…as everyone else seems to think she should?

Prejudice is a horrible but undeniable issue, and Dale Resteghini, as actor, writer, producer and director doesn’t toy with the idealism that everyday looks of scorns, offhand remarks, and sometimes downright hostility don’t take their toll on a relationship such as Tony and Debbie’s.  As Tony, he asks of the world why they can’t just leave him and Debbie the hell alone, but he instinctively knows that it’s just a pressure interracial couples have to endure…the operative word being ‘endure’, not ‘accept’. 

I found it very engrossing to watch this couple going through what they went through over the course of the picture…they start off with big dreams and plans, but the daily grind of life and a sometimes oppressive world causes plans like theirs to become derailed.  I think there’s a point in every ongoing relationship where both parties realize that their lives together aren’t always going to go according to the big script they had in mind…there are patches where people in love just have to wing it a little bit.  The heart of this movie is about just such a time in the lives of Tony and Debbie.

The last half hour of the movie is a slow suspense builder…Tony is free from jail and ready to give it another go.  He searches for Debbie, who may be about to miss the opportunity of a lifetime for a chance to reconcile with her dying mother.  At the same time, Kaleal is looking for both of them, with the intent of making a violent example of the pair.

The tension relaxes just enough for a beautiful moment of Debbie by her mother’s side…in fact, one of my favorite moments in the movie is one shared by these women a little earlier and over a telephone.  It occurs when Debbie is particularly overwhelmed by all of her frustrations.  She’s not in the frame of mind to talk to her mother, and continually tries to rush the phone call to its conclusion, while the mother tries meekly to keep it going long enough to be able to say what she needs to.  It’s a powerful and touching moment of miscommunication, illustrating how opposing mindsets can sometimes prevent the saying of words that most need to be said.  This scene makes the final reconciliation all the more beautiful…as someone who’s lost a mother myself, I responded with tears to the honesty of the tender scene.

This debut feature from Resteghini will be a treat to fans of independent cinema.  It boasts the same kind of raw and unapologetic energy in its writing and directing as many indie classics of the last decade, from Kevin Smith’s Clerks to Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It to Neil Labute’s In the Company of Men.  The gritty, unpolished style gives the dialogue and situations an extra edginess that would have been lost on a Hollywood production line (I can see some major studio producer trying to turn this script into another awful Story of Us clone).  It succeeds because of the honest, uncompromising screenplay and because of the appeal of the actors.  Young Nicki Richards is a revelation…pretty and fearless, with a helluva voice to match.  And Resteghini is a capable actor in his own right, who makes Tony’s pain and heartache real enough to cut like a knife through the viewers’ hearts.

How it all ends up for Tony, Debbie and Kaleal, I’ll leave for you to discover…suffice to say, the film is not about the futility of love or the glory of love.  It’s about the reality of love, and proves that the real test of it is not the major infidelity, the false gossip, the soap opera-style external manipulations or any other  fabricated melodrama.  It’s how it stands up to the everyday slings and arrows, pressures, frustrations and loss of dreams that makes it real…a love that can do that is worth more than all the “tomorrow is another day” endings that Hollywood can invent.

Video *1/2

Colorz of Rage was shot on film, but this disc looks like it was transferred from a videotape source.  I could be wrong, but I noticed some instances of vertical lines and speckles that I hadn’t seen since I gave up VHS movies over three years ago, and there were some imaging artifacts that I’m certain I’ve only come from magnetic media sources.  The opening and closing credit sequences are framed at about a 1.66:1 ratio, but the bulk of the film is in full frame…again, the kind of thing I’d only seen on VHS.  I’m not sure what Dale Resteghini’s framing preference is for his film, but from my point of view, the image seemed a little too tightly cropped to the left and right from time to time, with key figures either partially or mostly out of the frame, and I can’t help but thinking a proper widescreen transfer might have improved that.  Colors are mostly good, with some of the deepest and purest blacks I’ve seen, and there are a number of extreme lighting scenes such as club interiors or darkened rooms where the images take on a strange and purposely heightened look that I liked.  Overall, however, this isn’t going to be one of the best looking discs in your collection.

Audio ***

The Dolby stereo audio mix fares better, and is supported by one of the best music soundtracks I’ve heard in recent memory.  The sounds encompass a variety of styles from hip-hop to soul, to jazz influenced R&B, and features some live performances by both Ms. Richards and Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley (whose rendition of “God Bless the Child” is a showstopper).  The score by Tony Prendatt is superb, and Resteghini uses the movie’s music purposefully…it always enhances or reflects the current mood, and helps give key scenes their sense of rhythm.  Dialogue is quite clear throughout, and there are only a few noticeable moments of background noise from time to time, though well within the acceptability level for a lower budgeted film.

Features (zero stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

Colorz of Rage is a deceptively simply but surprisingly potent film, one that I found appealed directly to my most instinctual emotions:  fear, grief, anger, and hope.  It’s the kind of honest and fearless love story that mainstream Hollywood may not be ready for, but movie fans certainly are.  Dale Resteghini shows in his picture that ‘happily ever after’ doesn’t come all at once, but is built with laughter and tears day by day.