There's been an uneasy truce between the gangs in Paradise Gardens and Greenville Heights in East Los Angeles for the last couple of years, a truce that hangs in the balance after the drive by murder of Shaggy Gonzalez (Billy Garcia). This event also leaves his brother Dreamer(Enrique Almeida) with a bullet lodged in his head and amnesia.
Dreamer hooks up with his other brother Dusty (Noel Gugliemi) in order to try and make sense of events and see if he can remember what has happened and just who shot his brother. Initially the suspicion is the rival gang in Greenville Heights, but soon Dreamer's attention falls on the rather psychotic Trigger (Hector Atreyu Ruiz) who now runs the gang after the death of Shaggy. Dreamer also believes that Shaggy may have been seeing Trigger's girlfriend Vanessa (Delilah Cotto), which could have caused Trigger to react out of jealousy.
On the other side of the fence sits Detective John Cunningham (Tom Sizemore), a man whose life has spiralled out of control over the last two years with first his wife leaving him and then his long-serving partner being killed in action. Cunningham has been on gardening leave and receiving psychiatric treatment but is brought back into the job to take a new partner in Detective Gramm (Resmine Atis), who has transferred in from Chicago after 'ratting' out a corrupt colleague; something that doesn't bother Captain Garcia (Edward James Olmas).
The paths of Dreamer, Dusty, Trigger, Cunningham and Gramm intersect after the discovery of several mutilated bodies; all gang members. The police aren't sure whether they are witnessing the start of a turf war or have a serial killer on their hands, although Cunningham's solution to the areas crime problem would be to just bring in the bulldozers and level the whole area.
As it turns out, Dreamer's memory loss may well be the key to everything…
**note** there would normally be screencaps from the film in a DVD review but I was unable to run this review disc in my laptop, sorry...
Audio Commentary by director Michael Olmos and writer Adrian Cruz
Audio Commentary by director Michael Olmos and Tom Sizemore
The Making Of Splinter - standard stuff really…
Tom Sizemore on Detective Cunningham - actually this is without doubt the standout piece on this entire disc. You come into this thinking that it's about Tom Sizemore just talking about his character but you get that and a whole lot more. Sizemore is certainly a controversial character going by the tabloid stories and here he essentially faces up to all of that and pours his heart out to the camera. He's certainly not looking for sympathy or getting over emotional a la Gwyneth Paltrow, but you can see he's being earnest in explaining what has happened to him and how he got through it. This is the kind of thing that immediately makes you warm to somebody…
Creating The Title Sequence - talking about the rather good comic book style title sequence that is the second best thing about this disc.
Scoring Splinter - interview with composer Jae Chong on his brooding and synth-driven soundtrack
Deleted scenes - an interesting way to present this albeit inconsistently, the Picture In Picture with the cinematographer was definitely my favourite.
Spinter contains a nice premise that if handled correctly could have been quite a different and quite competent, if not good, film. As it is it's just a bit of an incoherent mess with fractured plotlines and some rather woeful acting. I expected much better from both Olmos and Sizemore but Olmos is clearly hampered by his script whilst Sizemore's performance is too OTT and rather annoying to boot. The main female lead in Resmine Atis doesn't work either and, like Mila Kunis in Max Payne, just feels like a teenager trying to act cool and grownup. The best parts in this film are the actual tender performances of Enrique Almeida and Delilah Cotto and the family scenes with Almeida and his onscreen mother and brother, something not normally seen in urban films. When the film goes all urban it starts to look rather formulaic and stereotypical, which is a shame.
All that said, this film was worthy of my time for one thing; the extra with Tom Sizemore, after which he completely has my sympathy and totally changed my opinion of him as a person. I was vaguely aware of his recent problems but not in great detail, you just tend to look at these things from a distance and think 'what a privileged w***er' without really paying too much attention. I have much respect for him in dissecting himself so thoroughly in an featurette that was supposed to be more about the character, who does share a number of common problems with Sizemore it must be said. It felt heartfelt and so matter of fact that I just felt I got the essence of the man completely, his intelligence shining through and belying his image and roles.
I also have to say that the animated title sequence and the score by Jae Chong are also rather good as is the overall cinematography, but as a whole the film is not that great despite director Michael Olmos including his dad in the cast. Originally Edward James Olmos was supposed to play against type and was cast as the Cunningham character and this may well have worked out better, but circumstances played against this happening due to BSG commitments.
I'd love to see a decent urban film with serial killer elements or just one that shows the real human side of these urban ghetto's without resorting to stereotypes but this isn't it, although it does at least try…