Cut Throat City

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Cut Throat City Movie Poster Image
Hurricane Katrina themes give mature heist movie a boost.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 123 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Invites viewers to think about Hurricane Katrina -- not only its general devastation but also the way it affected Black people in the impacted community. Suggests conspiracy theory about how flood waters inundated Black neighborhoods and not White ones. It may be worth discussing how a natural disaster could lead to increased discrimination; certainly, story ties into Black Lives Matter movement. On the downside, some characters get away with their crimes at the end.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Two main characters, Blink and Junior, are trying to improve themselves through art; Blink draws comics, and Junior plays jazz trumpet. But they both put their dreams on hold to pursue a quicker payoff; unfortunately, it's an illegal one, and there are consequences.

Violence

Lots of guns and shooting. Blood/bloody wounds; both main and secondary characters die. Extra gory animated opening titles. Raccoon bites a man's groin off-screen. Character shoots dog. Screaming, blood. Nazi imagery. Character wields a baseball bat. Attacking pit bull. Character yelling, punching wall.

Sex

Strip club scenes show scantily clad/topless women and bare bottoms. Naked male bottom shown. Strong sex-related dialogue. Married couple is affectionate.

Language

Constant use of extremely strong language, including "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," the "N" word, "p---y," "ass," "bitch," "goddamn," "hard-on," etc. Middle-finger gesture.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main characters smoke pot. A main character is a small-time drug dealer. Supporting characters are big-time drug dealers. Supporting character drinks out of a bottle in a paper bag. Social drinking, whiskey, Bloody Mary. Cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cut Throat City is a crime drama directed by RZA. It's set in New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina and addresses Black people's lives during that time. It lacks a certain grace, but the setting lends it a larger scope and a righteous passion that makes it worth a look for mature viewers. Violence includes guns and shooting, bloody wounds, and gory animated opening titles. Characters die, a dog is shot, and more. Language is extremely strong, with constant use of words including "f--k," "s--t," "motherf----r," the "N" word, and more. Scenes set in strip clubs show topless women, and bare male and female bottoms are shown. There's also strong sex-related talk. Characters are drug dealers, and there are scenes of pot smoking, cigarette smoking, and drinking.

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What's the story?

CUT THROAT CITY takes place in 2006 New Orleans, just after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Four childhood friends -- artist Blink (Shameik Moore), drug dealer Miracle (Demetrius Shipp Jr.), dog lover Junior (Keean Johnson), and jazz trumpeter Andre (Denzel Whitaker) -- can barely make ends meet. Blink is newly married and has a child to support, so he and his friends go to "Cousin" (Tip "T.I." Harris) looking for work. He sends them to rob a casino, and -- despite disorganization and a tragedy -- they manage to get away with some money. But Cousin isn't happy with their haul, and the friends must hide out with Blink's estranged father (Wesley Snipes). Soon, the friends decide on an even bigger heist, one with symbolic significance.

Is it any good?

Director RZA's epic crime drama is ungainly, overly long, and overly familiar, but its particular time and setting give it an ambitious scope and a righteous passion that energize it. Cut Throat City begins with the four friends, each of whom is defined by a single characteristic. (For example, Miracle is such a bad drug dealer that his friends tease him because he's always broke.) It's not a promising start, and then there's the casino heist, which is rather chaotic and not very suspenseful. It's all a little too straightforward.

The veteran supporting cast helps. Snipes is great as Blink's father, and there's also Harris (albeit with distracting makeup), plus Isaiah Washington, Terrence Howard, and Eiza Gonzalez. Ethan Hawke has a few scene-stealing moments as a corrupt city council member that are flat-out funny. And then the Hurricane Katrina themes come in. Black people are denied FEMA aid. There's a conspiracy theory about how and why one levee broke toward the Black side of town, rather than the White side. An arresting sense of dark fate, of discrimination, creeps into the regular plot proceedings of Cut Throat City; life just isn't fair for these characters, no matter what they do.

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