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A group of four men in the city walk toward the camera.

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Kristin Smith

Movie Review

New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward was always a rough place. But after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, things got much worse. Poverty, crime and violence were all a daily part of life. And as police officers fled, drug dealers and ruthless men took over.

Making money legally isn’t easy on these mean streets. Blink knows this well. Every day is a struggle for him, his new bride and his young son. But he’s determined to provide for his family.

One day, he takes his graphic novel, called Cut Throat City, to try and get it published. But after being denied his dream, and government assistance, he loses it. It seems like the only way to make a living is to break the law.

Blink and his friends, Andre, Miracle and Junior, band together to work for a notorious drug dealer. One who values money over everything, including his own soul. And all it takes is one robbery to make Blink realize that the very man they chose to work with is out to see them destroyed.

It’ll take everything they have to stay alive in a city where corruption is king.

Positive Elements

Blink’s wife, Demyra, believes in him. She reminds him in his frustration that he is an educated, intelligent Black man. Demyra also fiercely protects her son and husband, and she loves them both.

Blink, for all of his mistakes and misjudgments, really does want a better life for his family and friends. And even though he turns to crime in a moment of anger and frustration, he’s eventually given a second chance and finds a better way.

Blink’s father left him and his mother when he was younger, but those family ties are somewhat repaired by movie’s end. Blink’s father urges him to put aside his pride and seek a better life for his family, something the older man knows he didn’t do well.

Spiritual Elements

A drug lord known as The Saint asks a man if he believes “in the gods,” to which he responds: “I believe in a God. One God.” He also prays in front of an altar of sorts, crosses himself and quotes a passage of Scripture from Ezekiel that deals with God’s wrath.

Blink recites the Lord’s Prayer next to his sleeping son before he leaves on his first robbery. A man refers to his home, filled with fine things and alcohol, as his “church” of choice.

A Bible lays next to a stash of hard liquor. A few men wear cross necklaces, and a woman sports a tattoo of a cross. Some believe that Katrina was a disaster sent by God as punishment. A statue of Jesus touching a woman and child sits atop a police officer’s desk.

Sexual Content

A drug lord known as The Saint asks a man if he believes “in the gods,” to which he responds: “I believe in a God. One God.” He also prays in front of an altar of sorts, crosses himself and quotes a passage of Scripture from Ezekiel that deals with God’s wrath.

Blink recites the Lord’s Prayer next to his sleeping son before he leaves on his first robbery. A man refers to his home, filled with fine things and alcohol, as his “church” of choice.

A Bible lays next to a stash of hard liquor. A few men wear cross necklaces, and a woman sports a tattoo of a cross. Some believe that Katrina was a disaster sent by God as punishment. A statue of Jesus touching a woman and child sits atop a police officer’s desk.

Violent Content

Violence is the driving force throughout this entire film. For starters, the premise suggests that Katrina wiped out the poor, Black population. Multiple men talk about how Katrina means “purification,” and they believe that it was used to engineer modern day gentrification. But Blink states that while Katrina caused catastrophic, irreversible damage, he believes that the damage and horror has always been present in the city.

Blink and his friends, overcome by poverty, decide to pair up with a notorious drug dealer, Cousin. They are apprehensive about working with him because Cousin is violent, irrational and heartless. He assigns them a casino robbery. The men pull off the heist, but a close friend gets killed in the process. This continues as they rob other casinos and hurt innocent bystanders.

At one point, a drug dealer gives a man two choices: Either pay money or let a racoon bite his penis, he’s told. He opts for the latter. We see him pull his pants down from behind and we hear him scream and then walk away, pants pulled up but bloodied.

Blink’s idea for a graphic novel, which he calls Cut Throat City, shows Black men being hanged by white men as well as members of the KKK surrounding a group of Black men. The Black men come out of hiding, throwing Molotov cocktails and slicing off heads with a hooked blade as blood splatters in all directions.

Miracle kisses his gun and says, “This is my art right here,” signifying his reliance upon violence. He’s one of many in the Lower Ninth Ward without the help of the police, people who feel forced to protect and fend for themselves. 

Blink and his friends get caught in multiple shoot-outs. Miracle threatens a minister at gun point. Multiple men are killed in various, violent ways: shot at point-blank range, hit in the head with a baseball bat, punched to death. A man shoots and kills a dog.

Crude or Profane Language

Jesus name is misused twice. God’s name is misused about 10 times, and it’s paired with “d–n.” The f-word is used nearly 100 times, the s-word, about 50 times. Other frequent profanity includes “d–n,” “p-ssy,” “a–,” h—,” “b–ch,” “d–k.” The n-word is also used excessively. An officer performs a crude hand gesture.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Numerous drug dealers smoke marijuana, snort cocaine and order their employees to package and sell cocaine. Men and women smoke cigarettes and drink hard liquor, as well as many other types of alcohol.

Other Negative Elements

A note at the end of the film says that the Lower Ninth Ward, where this movie takes place, remained without running water and electricity for years. Viewers are shown horrendous images of Katrina’s aftermath.

A notorious drug dealer says that those who live in the Lower Ninth Ward usually don’t graduate high school and are dead, or in jail, by the age of 20—especially young men. Many drug dealers, and one in particular named Cousin, talk extensively about greed. Cousin makes it clear that nothing matters more to him—than making money and obtaining wealth by any means necessary. 

Men place bets on cage-fighting racoons. Bribery, corruption, extortion and other crimes are common throughout this film.

Conclusion

Poverty drives people to do things they’d never consider. And inescapable poverty smothers like a heavy, wet blanket. This is the premise for Cut Throat City, a new Netflix original film.

This intensely graphic, R-rated film has a lot to say. But overly complex storylines weave in and out, confusing viewers who might want to work through this two-hour flick despite all of its murky issues.

Was Hurricane Katrina used as a way to “purify” poverty stricken, black neighborhoods? Perhaps. Is violence the only way to move up in life? Maybe (the movie suggests). Can you move past your own upbringing to make a better life for yourself and your family? Depends.

Cut Throat City asks but doesn’t fully answer difficult questions about the relationship between poverty and crime. While there are a few redeeming characters, as well as encouragement to embrace second chances, those ideals are hard to see beneath the mountains of violence, profanity and explicit sexual content.

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Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).