OFF JACKSON AVENUE (2009)
Starring Jessica Pimentel, Aya Cash, Stivi Paskoski, John-Luke Montias, Jun Suenaga, Gene Ruffini, Clem Cheung, Daniel Oreskes, Judith Hawking, Michael Gnat and Jim Tooey.
Screenplay by John-Luke Montias.
Directed by John-Luke Montias.
Distributed by Goltzius Productions. 80 minutes. Not Rated.
The melting pot of Queens is shown off in this intriguing crime film – a meshing of three seemingly separate criminal acts which eventually collide with shocking results.
Off Jackson Avenue is not a romanticized crime film like Goodfellas or The Godfather, though. It looks specifically at the more down-and-dirty areas of law-breaking – and it is more fascinating for it.
Off Jackson Avenue follows three separate character arcs – all of which take hardened looks at different types of criminal activity.
Jessica Pimentel is Olivia, a young Mexican woman who is lured to Queens by the promise of a job in a restaurant and a home in a hotel. When she arrives, her passport is taken and she is forced into prostitution. The other girls who are forced to work in the “massage parlor” have become addicted, defeated and seem to have given up trying to escape, but Olivia is determined to get away and go back home.
Tomo (Jun Suenaga), is an English teacher in Japan, but somewhere along the line he has decided to supplement his meager income by becoming a hit-man for hire. He is flown in to Queens to perform a contract killing at the same time his mother is critically ill in a hospital at home – and this dichotomy weighs on his mind in ways that he would have never expected.
The last strand belongs to Joey (played by writer/director John-Luke Montias), a paroled car thief who has decided to go straight by buying a local tire shop. The problem is the only way he knows how to make the money to purchase the business is to do one last rash of auto grabs.
The three stories all appear to be separate, but as the film goes on they eventually collide violently.
Olivia’s story gets the most airtime – which makes sense, it is the most intriguing, unusual and gripping plot. Pimentel (Pride & Glory) brings great intensity to the role of a woman suddenly enmeshed in an unthinkable situation.
Montias has a good feel for the world of petty crime and the shaky camera work gives the film an immediacy and almost documentary feel. The multi-lingual neighborhood is also captured well – in fact at different points in this mostly-English film there is subtitled dialogue spoken in Russian, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and Albanian.
If perhaps the climax is a little coincidental – as well as a tiny bit vague about the fate of Olivia and a fellow Russian immigrant ensnared in the web – the film is still a very satisfying look at the sordid corners of crime that do not always get illuminated on film.
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 30, 2009.