Film Review by Kam Williams
Harlem Provides Gritty Backdrop for Super-Realistic Survival Saga
When Djbril (Sy Alassane) left his native Senegal for the U.S., he harbored high hopes of making it as a musician. But while pursuing his version of the elusive American Dream, the 21 year-old immigrant pays the rent by hustling bootlegged CDs and other assorted contraband on the street of lower Manhattan.
Afterhours, he retreats via moped to a rough side of Harlem where the struggle for survival only intensifies. Uptown, Djbril’s Achilles heel is exposed when he takes an interest in pretty Trini (Sky Grey), the proverbial prostitute with a heart of gold.
The knight in shining armor helps the wayward woman find a legitimate line of work as a hairdresser. Unfortunately, losing a productive ‘ho doesn’t sit well with her pimp, Bekay (Tony Okungbowa). Complicating matters is the fact that the exploitative creep also happens to be Djibril’s boss, which means it’s merely a matter of time before the situation triangulates into an ugly confrontation over the fetching femme fatale.
That, in a nutshell is the perilous plotline of Restless City, a super-realistic, slice-of-life saga marking the directorial debut of Andrew Dosunmu. The Nigeria-born filmmaker is already well-known for his award-winning music video work with such icons as Common, Wyclef Jean, Maxwell, Tracy Chapman, Aaron Neville and the late Isaac Hayes.
Here, he makes a promising foray into full-length features via a visually-captivating adventure which offers a penetrating peek inside a vibrant community comprised primarily of African expatriates. Though sabotaged at times by mood-setting pauses and some stilted dialogue, Restless City is still sufficiently engaging to remain recommended for devotees of unsanitized dramatic fare bordering on cinema verite.
Forget pimps, it’s apparently just as hard out there for a street peddler.
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for drug use and brief sexuality.
In English, French, Wolof and Yoruba with subtitles.
Running time: 80 minutes