What do noir, Busby Berkeley, the blues, and funhouse fantasy have in common? As Dark Streets ultimately proves, not much. Aiming for the inspired style warp of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil but landing somewhere in the territory of Cirque du Soleil or Disney’s House of Blues, director Rachel Samuels mashes up genre and chronology while showing little understanding or interest in the integrity of any of her sources. What motivated noir’s high contrast, its cynicism and misanthropy? What motivated the blues’ lament, its horny, smoky suicidal heartbreak? Dark Streets couldn’t care less, grafting together tropes despite cultural and aesthetic incompatibility, proud to wear them as layers of shabby chic fashion.
Opening and closing with a bullet to the head, Dark Streets is narrated by a creepy mohawked MC named Prince (L.A. choreographer and performer Toledo) who lays the blues mysticism on thick. “Welcome to the blues,” he says, milking pedal notes from his voice and lighting a darkened room with a burning cig. Cut to an opening credit montage of foggy alleyways, trash-can fires, and oil-slick streets (picture Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” video tweaked with Sin City pretension), all scored to an overproduced number authenticated by B.B. King himself. The yarn, such as it is, finds dreamy hard-drinking melancholic cabaret owner Chaz (fresh-faced beanpole Gabriel Mann) mourning the death of his father, deflecting the attentions of brassy old-flame Crystal (Bijou Phillips) and surviving prune-faced mobsters. “The blues: once it’s in you, it’s got you,” says Prince. “It had Chaz bad.”
Click here to read the rest of Eric Hynes’s review of Dark Streets.