Star-Ledger - Newark, New Jersey
Punchin' Pat falls flat as writer-star
Friday, September 22, 2006
BY STEPHEN WHITTY
They're Just My Friends
(Unrated) Punchin' Pat Productions (120 min.) Directed by Attika J. Torrence. With Patrick Nwamu Jr. Opens Friday at theaters in New York, and at the Newark Screens in Newark.
"They're Just My Friends," a new indie drama, is the story of an up-from-the-streets Bronx boxer faced with the choice between life among an ever-shifting group of hard-core bikers and murderous Mafiosi, or initiation into the shadowy and all-powerful world of Freemasonry.
Ah, the eternal dilemma.
A film to stand alongside the best of Ed Wood, "They're Just My Friends" is, we're told, "written by and starring the Champ" -- cruiserweight boxer Patrick "Punching Pat" Nwamu. Judging by what's on screen, "Punchdrunk Pat" might be a better moniker.
Badly acted and ludicrously written, his film features several overlapping storylines, none of which make sense. Along the film's cluttered two hours, our hero Pat Black starts a career as a mob-backed fighter, helps out a biker gang during a murderous gunfight, goes to jail after battling a Bensonhurst crew known as the Guido Boys, and finally takes vengeance against a murderous Dominican drug dealer.
But not to worry. Every time he gets in trouble, a mysterious and wealthy friend of his dead father's -- a Masonic ring glinting in the shadows -- appears, to talk darkly of the powers of "the Lodge" and to bail Punchin' Pat out of his present predicament.
If only he got him out of this movie.
The truth is that Punchin' Pat can't act his way out of a paper bag, and his tomato-can delivery makes every line of dialogue dead on its feet. The kindest thing to call the rest of the cast would be unmemorable, although Bruce Altman should get some kind of credit for keeping a straight face as the mysterious Mason, talking darkly of ancient rites, world domination and an upcoming rumble with the Shriners.
Okay, I made that last part up.
The rest of the movie, though, is just as ridiculous, and seems to have been financed from change found under the couch cushions. The photography is of the blurry home-video style, and director Attika J. Torrence doesn't know how to begin or end a scene, or hide the lack of funds.
The movie's ineptitude, in fact, is astounding. The restaurant "sets" consist of two people sitting against a blank wall, while the soundtrack screams with taped crowd noise; the audience at a boxing match are represented by a dozen extras and some folding chairs; the soundtrack consists of songs from Led Zeppelin and the "Superfly" soundtrack, taped off someone's CD.
And the filmmakers have the nerve to ask $10 for this? That's not an admission price, it's a mugging.
The screening I attended was interrupted several times during its last half-hour by a DVD that kept sticking, turning the already lethargic scenes into a jerky series of stills. "It's not the disc," the baffled projectionist explained later, apologetically. "The disc's clean. For some reason the projector just kept rejecting it."
Rating note: The film contains strong language, sexual situations, brief nudity and violent assaults to the intelligence.