Slam review

This caused a sensation at the Edinburgh Festival last August. Now it's found a distributor, those of us who didn't make it north of the Border can find out what all the fuss is about, and why it bagged the Grand Prize at last year's Sundance Film Festival.

Slam was inspired by a street kid's remarks to director Marc Levin while he was shooting Gang War: Bangin' In Little Rock. This astonishing piece of cerebral verite-drama tells the story of Ray, who's caught in gangland crossfire. Yet even when he's locked up in the chaos of the American penal system, he chooses a different path for himself instead of accepting a life of petty crime and tit-for-tat gangland shootings.

You see, this is no derivative, expletive-heavy, firearm-wielding slice of Boyz `N The Hood blaxploitation. Rather it's an uplifting and contemporary version of the American Dream that shows the possibility of using art as a way to rise above the depression and in-built welfare-dependence of the inescapable inner-city projects.

Partly filmed in a DC prison (with real-life gunshot victims and 16 inmates among the cast), the mostly improvised action is captured using an unobtrusive fly-on-the-wall technique. It's a lyrical rites-of-passage story that captures one man's quest for self truth and with it, the emergence of performance street poetry as an unlikely weapon against inner-city crime.

Add mesmerising performances from NYU drama graduate Williams and Sohn (soon to be in Scorsese's Bringing Out The Dead), and bravura lengthy one-take sequences that dazzle with verbal inventiveness and deep emotion, and Slam delivers. Hard.

Supplanting weapons with ferociously critical machinegun vocals and a powerful social message, this is no lightweight viewing. Yet Slam has the freshness, resonance and energy of a fat shot of adrenalin. A unique and moving film experience.

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