“By the time you notice the water is boiling, you’re already cooked.”
Sean Weathers is a Guyanese born, Brooklyn-based filmmaker/auteur who has written, directed and produced films with titles such as They All Must Die!, Hookers in Revolt, Maniac Too!, Mandingo Sex Addict and Scumbag Hustler.
With monikers such as those plus the DIY nature of his films, it’s hard not to admire the man. His newest opus, Ace Jackson is a Dead Man has Weathers playing the titular character: a very small-time pimp and hustler wannabe who’s tired of being small. He accepts a substantial amount of cocaine from Bigelow, a Jay-Z type who runs the neighborhood. Bigelow, or Mr. Biggs, makes it no secret that he disdains Ace and only took him on as a favor to Ace’s cousin, Baxter. Biggs wants his money by Wednesday.
Ace visits his girl Chelsea, who like Biggs, doesn’t seem to respect Ace very much. Her tune changes, however, when she sees the drugs. So Ace goes to the streets, sells the coke, gives Bigelow the money, and all is well. If only. Ace leaves the weight at Chelsea’s to go see another girl. When he returns, Chelsea is gone and so are the drugs. To say Ace is fucked is an understatement, but unfortunately, so is poor Baxter if Ace doesn’t cough up the cash on time.
The plot of Ace Jackson is somewhat conventional but the style is not. The film has a cinema verité feel and is shot in stark black and white, reminiscent of early-Jim Jarmusch, a la Stranger than Paradise. Furthermore, Weathers underscores his modern take on Blaxploitation with vintage jazz and blues tunes by the likes of Leadbelly and Kansas Joe McCoy. The cinematography and unconventional choice of music gives the film a strange, timeless feel which contrasts sharply with the images on display (twerking, banging, beating, snorting coke off a hooker’s heiney.)
Other choices don’t work so well. The film is punctuated with text crawls regarding the huge economic disparity between the haves and the have-nots in American society as well as the unfair practices of corporate behemoths. Weathers, I assume, is trying to correlate the micro with the macro. It’s noble, but it doesn’t quite work in the context of the film. Furthermore, the film is punctuated with extremely gruesome insert shots of genuine corpses. It seems Weathers is trying to make another statement in doing so, rather than just including gruesome inserts for the sake of exploitation, but it’s difficult to discern just what type of statement that is.
Now on to the sex. The film contains a number of extremely raw sex scenes, which according to the director’s website, are not simulated. So be warned.
Ultimately, Ace Jackson is a Dead Man is a film that is decidedly not for everyone. It’s ultra low-budget and the inserts and sex could turn off many a viewer. Nonetheless, the film is undeniably the work of someone with a unique voice and a tremendous amount of talent and potential. It’ll be interesting to see where Weather’s career takes him next.
*** (out of five)