A Better Tomorrow 2018
Den of Thieves
Victor Goodview (Winston Shaw) has no job, suffers from drug abuse, constipation, and depression while living in a small apartment. His one and only friend, Black (Kenny Borland), doesn't help his situation by providing him with drugs. Making matters worse, he resorts to stealing groceries from a supermarket, doesn't have a phone, and can't even afford to pay his electricity bill. The only glimmer of hope can be found in an imminent interview he manages to get for a dead-end job.
The screenplay by writer/director Vincent Turturro is an unflinchingly dark and disturbing glimpse into the life of someone who's on a fringe of society and has almost reached rock bottom. To watch Victor suffer throughout his daily routine is not pleasant unless you're the kind of person who experiences schadenfreude-- if you find pleasure in someone else's misfortunes. Turturro's screenplay succeeds in allowing the audience to feel some empathy toward Victor even if his actions aren't exactly relatable. Winston Shaw's natural performance coupled with the fact that he's a newcomer makes Victor's character seem all the more real. If a recognizable actor, i.e. Nicholas Cage, were cast instead, the film would've lost a bit of its authentic vibe.
Victor comes across as a deeply flawed man with mental issues, but that's what makes his character all the more interesting, complex, and human. You can't help but wonder what his dysfunctional family was like and what events might have led to his current state. His constipation could be seen as a metaphor for all of the shit, so-to-speak, that he's had to put up with all of these years. In the midst of the film's heavy drama and tragedy, there's some actually comic relief to be found, i.e. when a supermarket's security guard forces Victor to remove a lot of grocery items from all sorts of places within his clothes. Turturro, like Charlie Chaplin, wisely grasps the fact that comedy is very often rooted in tragedy.
Everyone, at some point, goes through a low point in their life where they have to struggle to find some light at the end of a dark tunnel. One could argue that we're currently living in dark times thanks to Donald J. Trump and those who voted for him. Just open the newspaper if you want evidence of how low our society has sunk. More should be done to help the mentally ill, the homeless and lower class---after all, it's the poor people who provide most of a city's character. People like Victor shouldn't be neglected; they need mental help at the very least. Kudos to Turturro for not sugar-coating Victor's suffering. The refreshingly un-Hollywood Victor Goodview makes The Florida Project look like a Disney movie. It would make for an interesting double feature with Charlie Chaplin's tragicomedy The Gold Rush.