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Sunday, September 1, 2013

GHETTO DAWG 2: OUT OF THE PITS -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This was one of my first reviews, written in 2005 for

With a name like this, it has to be a piece of junk, right?  That's just what I expected when I sat down to watch this movie -- either a hip-hop update of those blaxploitation flicks from the 70s, a cheap NEW JACK CITY rip-off, or a feature-length rap video.  The last thing I expected was one of the best movies I've seen this year, which is why GHETTO DAWG 2:OUT OF THE PITS was such a genuine surprise.

Daniel Outlaw plays Donte, an aimless teenager who lives in a cramped apartment with his mother and sister.  We first see him as he sits on the bed watching his older brother Tyrone load his gun as he prepares to join three other soldiers who work for a corpulent Latino crime boss named Big Daddy (Lou Torres).  They're about to pay a visit to Angel (Wilfredo Sierra), the hood who runs Big Daddy's bloody dog-fighting competitions.  The leader of the group, Jojo (Paris Campbell), a cold-blooded hitman with a deceptively easy-going demeanor, has a bone to pick with Angel for fighting dogs in his neighborhood, and the meeting explodes into gunfire.  "If I don't come back, take care of my dog, man," Tyrone tells Donte before leaving.  He doesn't come back.

Donte is haunted by his brother's death and thinks only of revenge.  He brandishes a gun in front of the bathroom mirror in a scene reminiscent of the mirror scene from TAXI DRIVER, but instead of merely saying things like "You talkin' to me?", he spews angry rap lyrics directed at Angel.  When he finally gets a chance to carry out the hit, however, he is unable to pull the trigger.  Angel taunts and humiliates him at gunpoint for his lack of cojones, but his life is spared when Angel's girlfriend, Brynn (Janisha Faith), urges him to let Donte go.

Donte's grief-stricken mother sinks ever lower into drug addiction, constantly blaming him for Tyrone's death when she isn't lying around the apartment senseless.  Donte moves in with Jojo and begins to accompany him on his rounds as he goes about his job, which consists mainly of killing people for Big Daddy.  He's very good at this -- cold, calculated, and unfeeling -- a talent Donte feels he must learn in order to make himself capable of finally facing Angel once again and killing him.  But witnessing the results of bullets being fired into people at close range, some of them whom he has known since childhood, has the opposite effect on him.  He tells Jojo he can't do it, that he'll never be a killer like him. 

Meanwhile, Brynn has left Angel and gone to work turning tricks for Big Daddy.  While getting to know the likable young Donte, she begins to feel herself being drawn closer to him.  They form a relationship, and before long Brynn devises a scheme in which she and Donte can leave the city together with a large sum of money.  Big Daddy's money, to be exact -- while working for him, she has managed to learn the combination to his safe.  Pretending to come crawling back to Angel, she endures a night of humiliation at his hands (while wearing a dog collar and leash) simply to make off with his trademark hat while he sleeps.  The next day Donte enters Big Daddy's bar wearing the hat pulled down over his face and robs the safe.  As planned, Angel gets the blame.

Donte tells Jojo he's moving out and leaving the city with his girl.  But Jojo has one last job he wants Donte to help him with, one that should interest him -- Big Daddy has ordered him to kill Angel.  Donte resists but is talked into it.  He will enter Tyrone's dog in the fights, thus gaining access to Angel's stronghold, and while inside he will let Jojo in through the backdoor.  As Brynn sits impatiently at a nearby bus stop with the money, wondering why Donte hasn't shown up at the appointed time, Donte carries out his part of the plan and awaits the outcome.  But, as so often happens in movies where people wager their futures on carefully thought-out plans, things don't go as they're supposed to.

GHETTO DAWG 2:OUT OF THE PITS is a finely-crafted movie that benefits from excellent performances at every level, a great script by Christine Conradt, beautiful cinematography, and confident direction by Joshua and Jeffrey Crook that is very stylish without drawing attention to itself.  All of these elements come together so perfectly that the movie runs like a well-oiled machine, sustaining interest and suspense from beginning to end.  There are moments of shocking violence but they aren't enhanced by slow-motion or fancy editing -- they just happen, the way such things do in real life.

 I only found one scene that I thought really didn't work, in which Big Daddy and Jojo enact a variation on the "You think I'm funny?  Funny how?" scene from GOODFELLAS.  Other than that, though, this is a movie that everyone involved in obviously really cared about, and it shows.  I have a feeling it may eventually become a cult film.

As for the ending -- I'll simply say that it's somewhat downbeat.  And yet, it's so right.  The "dawgs" have been thrown into the pit, fought for their lives, and emerged either unscathed, bloody and wounded, or dead.  And when the credits came on after the fade-out, I just sat back for a minute or two and thought, "Wow..."

Buy it at

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