The Local (2008)
Directed by Dan Eberle
"You begin saving the world by saving one person at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics."
As a born and raised New Yorker, I've become accustomed to the feel and real of the city. When you walk these streets and live and work in the canyon of skyscrapers, you can easily separate the tourists from the tried and true.
Somehow, Dan Eberle has pulled off the impossible. He's made an indie film that takes the seedy side of the glamour of the city and actually makes it glamourous. What does that actually mean?
With The Local, Eberle tells the story of the commoner, the people who don't visit the city for a week but who live here, work here and have to survive here when they have nothing. There are alot of people who fit this description in NYC. The average joes, the joey bronx, the johnny brooklyns and the nonames. It's fitting that Eberle plays the character Noname. You just feel like you know a guy like him, his troubles, the shit he's been through and that's why The Local works.
The Local follows Noname, an enigmatic man running from a tortured past. He is trapped in a violent Brooklyn underworld as the lowly drug runner for a gang of crazed veterans. There, Noname is approached by a wealthy out-of-towner who offers him a large sum of money to "rescue" the man's heroin-addicted daughter from his employer's drug lair. Noname soon realizes that saving the girl is more than a payday. It will grant him a way out of his purgatory after a lifetime of wrongdoing, and open a path toward personal redemption.
Dan Eberle who stars as Noname also wrote and directed The Local. Originally written as a novel after Eberle read The Post Office by Charles Bukowski, it has many of the Bukowski-isms but also has some notable differences. You can see the similarities of a Hank Chinaski in Noname but whereas Chinaski barflies, Noname is clean.
I love Bukowski's novels, poems and writings. So The Local naturally felt right. It was like watching Factotum or a Bukowski poem in filmatic motion. The movie is indeed a slow burn even for its 90 min runtime. Most of the early scenes are Noname GTA-ing on a variety of drug dealing missions, meeting his clients and getting his ass kicked by the local kingpins of the Brooklyn underground.
What makes The Local a step above the indie film is its docu-style of NYC. Whereas big budget productions would "clean up" NYC, The Local keeps it gritty, uncouth and real. Walks through cinematic wastelands, subway rides on above and below ground trains and safehouse drug dens that would make Claude from GTA 3 squeamish.
I can't help but smile when I see a movie that is shot in this way. The streets of Brooklyn are almost a character in itself and it's like your watching a different world from the one you've seen via Hollywood.
The Local is unsanitized cinema, full of brutal hard truths learned one punch in the face at a time.
Noname (Eberle), who looks like a cross between Mickey Rourke and John "You can't see me" Cena is classically the anti-hero who you can't help but sympathize with. The circle he rolls with are very colorful. From a hipster turned dealer Blueboy (Beau Allulli) to the king of kingpins Big Black (Paul Bowen) and his lieutenants, they are there to either help our Johnny Local or beat the living crap out of him.
The movie can't help that the first 30-40 min is following downtrodden Noname as he lives his very fucked up life. Some will say its a slow burn, boring to a point. But I've been accustomed to that as a Bukowski fan. You need walk in those metaphorical shoes and seeing Noname stumble and crumble gets your empathy gene jacked up. Ironically, Noname is not a local, but somehow becomes one over the course of the movie.
Later, Noname is approached with a deal of a lifetime. Rescue the damsel drugged up daughter (Maya Ferrara) in distress from Big Black and get $5 Gs. The tension and suspense is built up and you really get the feeling all is hopeless as we head down to the last 15 min. Maybe revenge served cold? Guns a blazing? Hmmm. The payoff that's executed is less than stellar but somehow works when the redemption message plays out.
I really liked the film in that I'm a big fan of the works of the Bukowskis and the John Fantes. It's not going to be to everybodys liking but as far as indie crime and grime dramas go, it's pretty solid. Think Taxi Driver lite.
Dan Eberle is a filmmaker to watch out for. Here's hoping he stays true to the scene and themes he created for The Local. Let me leave you with one final Bukowski quote:
“There will always be something to ruin our lives, it all depends on what or which finds us first. We are always ripe and ready to be taken.”