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Vegasland (2008)

DVD Cover (Wild Dog Films)
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5.4
 / 10
1 vote
Genres:
Crime, Crime Drama, Gangster Film
Directors:
Kenneth Kit Lamug Kenneth Kit Lamug
Thomas J. Vosicky Thomas J. Vosicky
Starring:
Ryan Allen Ryan Allen
Alex Alzona Alex Alzona
Abel Armendariz Abel Armendariz
Jeffrey Bondoc Jeffrey Bondoc
Rick Brown Rick Brown
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Review by Chad
Added: May 05, 2008
When it comes to crime films, I firmly believe that nobody can pull them off quite as well as the indie filmmakers. The Hollywood films always have to come up with outrageous special effects and insane plot twists to make everything look good for the trailers, while the indie guys usually have to keep their films more down-to-earth due to budget concerns. This may be a problem with most genres, but for the crime films, a gritty film with minimal effects actually helps more than it hurts. Granted, one may be more visually appealing than the other, but when it comes to telling a story that the audience can get into and presenting realistic situations, it seems as though the indie guys simply have an edge over their Hollywood contemporaries. Naturally, there's exceptions to be made to both sides of that statement, but Vegasland is one of those films that completely backs up my opinion on the matter.

The storyline here is simple enough that you never get lost or mixed up with the characters, but at the same time, there's a lot going on and a fair amount of people who weave in and out of the story. It centers around two roommates - professional gambler Eddie G (Ernell Manabat) and meth addict Worm (Jeffrey Crawford) - and more specifically, a tape that Worm has in his possession. You see, our tweaker friend went to an illegal underground fight and recorded it in hopes of making DVDs and selling them in Japan, but apparently, he caught something on tape that he shouldn't have because he quickly disappears with the evidence.

Enter the psychotic, crooked cop Decker (Greg Opal), a man who is determined to find Worm and the tape for reasons which will be made clear later on. He hooks up with Eddie (read: puts a gun to his head) and forces him to assist him in his search, and together, the two go through the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas in search of Worm. Along the way, they'll encounter crime kingpins, drug dealers, and hired thugs, and eventually, Eddie realizes that he may have to actually rely on Decker if he wants to get out of this alive.

The main strength of the film was the way that the end goal was clear for all involved, but to get there, the leading men had to visit several different characters for information and assistance. The aforementioned goal is made clear within the first ten minutes of the film, but it's never completely spelled out until later on; as an audience, we're forced to guess as to what the details driving this situation are, and as a result, the film keeps our interest until the very end. We know there's a tape, but what's on it? We know Decker wants it, but why? This may sound like a trivial matter, but far too many films of this nature attempt to merely present us with a group of characters and have them hop from one scenario to another for ninety minutes with no clear goals or motives.

Another thing that really helped my enjoyment of the film was the performance given by Greg Opal as the psychotic protagonist, or as he prefers to be called, the "cold-hearted motherfucker." This character just oozes cockiness and hatred, and we can't wait to see him get his comeuppance after the things that he puts Eddie and his friends through. Then, when his character morphs into something else and requires a slightly different style of performance, the man keeps up with the change and in turn keeps us interested. Ernell Manabat is also pretty good in his role and turns in a more than acceptable performance, but for my money, Opal was the star of the show.

My only quibble with the film comes courtesy of a few sketchy CGI effects, but since the version of the film that I viewed wasn't complete, this may be fixed down the road. However, even if these effects aren't fixed, there's really only a few brief moments in which this gripe comes into play, so to say that this hurts the overall film would be a huge exaggeration (especially considering that the film was shot on a four-figure budget). Otherwise, it's a damned solid film that would definitely please those of you who are interested in the crime genre and want something a little more down to earth and realistic than what Hollywood is giving us these days. 8/10.
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