Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Solvan ‘Slick’ Naim's FULL CIRCLE: Urban filmmaker's vanity debut hits film fests


Vanity, as in "a vanity produc-tion," doesn't have to mean low quality or lack of talent. This is something to keep in mind when you come upon a movie like FULL CIRCLE, which can only be called a vanity production, since the star also wrote, co-directed, co-produced and co-executive-produced the film, supervised the music  and also had a hand in the editing. Among other endeavors. The multi-hyphenate in this case is a fellow named Naim -- Solvan Naim, aka "Slick the Misfit." According to the press information, Mr. Naim, shown below, is a 23-year-old Algerian-American rapper and music video director from the Bushwick area of Brooklyn.

The guy has talent. This is apparent from the first few frames, as he pulls us in with the question, "Where's the fucking money?!" screamed over and over to a young man beaten bloody, as a couple of other young men watch from across the room, tied up and so unable to help the poor fellow. Then our bloody boy is shot at point blank range -- and then saved in an escape that is utterly unbelievable by any standards -- unless you've seen very few movies in your day or have never dealt with hardened criminals. This opening section is stylish, too, but in a been-there-many-times-before manner.

Not only are our hardened criminals as dumb as they come, so is just about everyone else in the film -- from our pizza-delivering heroes and their friend to the nattily-attired criminal kingpin -- played by Rob Morgan (above center, surrounded by his henchmen), who gives the most sustained, intelligent and funny performance in the film).

One of the questions that quickly presents itself is whether or not the filmmaker means all this to be a comedy, because (or maybe despite itself), it mostly is. But Mr. Naim (in character, above right) has as yet barely a trace of the skill needed to combine murder and mayhem with truly clever comedy. Instead he relies on the coarsest of tired gimmicks like our pizza-delivery guy coming on to a pretty girl who turn out to be -- oh! -- a lesbian. Matter of fact, Naim is almost shockingly anti-woman of any kind (except the sweet little girl who plays our hero's sister and is clearly too young to be bad). Otherwise all his women are ultra-nasty or betraying gold-diggers whom our boy treats as such. Well, gosh, that's womenfolk for you.

These would include the wife of a old friend who insists on certain toilet etiquette (portrayed as the harpy of all time), and a new girl (Celestine Rae, above) our hero meets who so clearly outclasses him in every way that of course she must be treated like shit. This kind of ghetto garbage does no one -- men or women -- much good. There's a question of whether or not Naim knows this and is just trying to kiss up to the male audience he hopes will embrace his film -- or doesn't know it and clearly still has a lot to learn about the other half of humanity.

As a filmmaker, Naim's talent is on view in his ability to creates lots of violence and action (above and below) then cutting away just before the blood and gore hit. Is this due to a limited budget? Rating worries? Taste? Budget, most likely.

Where Naim is most successful, oddly enough, is in his creation of characters and scenes that are clearly peripheral but lots of fun. Rating the new couch is one such (even if the action and remainder of the scene is ridiculous from any standpoint). Characters like Hippy (a fun Sam Eliad) and that Persian/French arms dealer (a terrific job by newcomer Alex Piovezan, below) go far toward making the movie watchable. As does its actual ending, combining music with some tasty documentary shots of the Bushwick area.

The main story and action is mostly second-hand stuff. And yet it's clear that Naim has some talent. How he grows and where he goes with that talent will tell the tale. Meanwhile Full Circle, running 86 minutes and first seen at the Palm Beach International Film Festival this past April, made its debut at the NYC International Film Festival last Friday and Sunday and will be seen again in New York City during the Manhattan Film Festival at the Quad Cinema on June 27.

2 comments:

Robbie Knox said...

whats the name of the song when anthoni and layla have sex?

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for commenting, Robbie, and I wish I could answer your question. But it has been so long since I've seen this movie that I can't begin to remember what song that was. Very sorry.