"Bobby G. Can't Swim" is being promoted as "in the tradition of 'Taxi Driver' and 'Mean Streets,' " which does a disservice to a little independent feature whose prime virtues are modesty and unpretentiousness.
New York actor John-Luke Montias, who is the film's writer-director and star, has come up with a tale about a small-time drug dealer that's more heartfelt than original. It is, however, well-structured, capturing the restless pace of life in Hell's Kitchen, and Montias gives an admirably disciplined portrayal of a guy caught up in a constant struggle for survival.
Montias' Bobby G. is a pale, slim, scruffy-looking young man with a slouch. Life seems to be one big hassle for him and his girlfriend, Lucy (Susan Mitchell), a streetwalker who brings her johns to their seedy apartment in Hell's Kitchen, the film's principal locale. Bobby G. and Lucy live a scrappy existence: He's always being hounded by competitors and the cops; she gets into turf wars with the voluptuous hooker Gina (Donna Sonkin). Emotional and high-strung, Lucy is homesick for Puerto Rico.
Bobby G., however, is resigned to getting by when one of his yuppie customers, Mike (Paul Maged), tells him he has a pal who wants to buy a kilo of cocaine and is willing to pay $30,000 for it. In an instant Bobby sees this deal as his long-awaited big break, his means to a better life. He turns to his middleman, Coco (Vincent Vega), to secure a meeting with his supplier, the icy Astro (Steve Heinze).
Not surprisingly, all does not go as Bobby intended, but Montias skillfully develops Bobby's predicament and reveals in Bobby a streak of conscience, a lapsed Catholic's capacity for guilt. As a drug-dealer, petty though he may be, Bobby is not exactly a worthy individual, but he has enough decent instincts to have the viewer pulling for him rather than not caring what happens to him.
As a filmmaker and an actor Montias understands the importance of focus, economy and pace. His take on street characters tends toward the sentimental and the theatrical, but he instinctively knows how to present himself to best advantage. "Bobby G. Can't Swim" is decidedly a minor item that's been on the shelf for a while but is nonetheless an effective calling card for its writer-director-star.
'Bobby G. Can't Swim'
MPAA rating: R, for language and drug content, some sexuality and violence.
John-Luke Montias ... Bobby G.
Susan Mitchell ... Lucy
Vincent Vega ... Coco
A cinéBLAST! production, released by Gabriel Film Group. Writer-director John-Luke Montias. Producers Gill Holland, Michael Pilgram. Executive producers Matonti Bros., Adriana Chiesa, Julia Coppola, Michael Morley, Kevin Chinoy. Cinematographer George Gibson. Editor Michael Pilgram. Music Ed Tomney. Sound Andy Rayland. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.
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