Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rubble Kings
Releases June 19th, 2015 (Limited)
1 hr 10 min
Not Rated


Director: Shan Nicholson
Writer: Shan Nicholson

John Leguizamo as Narrator

“Yellow” Benji Melendez
Afrika Bambaataa
Carlos “Karate Charlie” Suarez
Ed Koch
Felipe Luciano
Harlem Cody 
Jazzy Jay 
Jee Sanchez 
Kool Herc 
Marshall Berman 
Red Alert 
Rolando Ruiz 

Review by Stephen M.

Rubble Kings is a documentary of a much rougher time in New York City as gangs ruled the streets.  Much like Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, the film which centered on the late 60s into the 70s were full of colorful characters like Karate Charlie and Yellow Benji.  But unlike Scorsese's classic, with archival footage and interviews with key players of gang members during that era, these were real larger than life characters and not just loosely based on characters.  The filmmakers does an excellent job in presenting the material taking us from the creation of these gangs to their eventual turn into positive members of society.

A lot of documentaries that does not capture the audience's attention is due to their methodical dry presentation of their material.  Rubble Kings thankfully does not suffer from this.  John Leguizamo does an excellent job as the narrator, with colorful personalities like "Yellow" Benji and Karate Charlie with tales of their youthful gang days keeps this documentary interesting.  Seeing the story told in many different ways from interviews to old footage and even colorful animation is what keeps you entertained and educated.  I especially love the animation which I would not expect from this type of documentary.  What I also love about the documentary is the stories of how the Bronx essentially came to be a forgotten borough of lower income families as the rich and middle class flee north of the city.

The film while it touches on the violence of that time, I felt for the most part sugar coated it. Not only with regards to the violence but any criminal activity the interviewees may have been a part of was never discussed.  As well while the story rightly centers on the Ghetto Brothers, I would have loved to see more diverse stories from different points of view.  Especially in regards to rival gangs, or the law enforcement involved with tackling these gangs.  Yes, we get some views from this side, but would have love to have been provided a fuller picture with more in-depth looks.  Perhaps the filmmaker didn't want to take away from the positive message of the film and thus chose not to focus on these other matters.

Overall, I would recommend this film especially if you are a fan of the history of gangs, New York or hip hop.  The footage provides a look into a world that few of us were a part of, or ever knew but is fascinating nevertheless.  The firsthand accounts presented beautifully of unsung heroes of a city in decay at the time, especially in regards to the Bronx.  Watching how what started out as a group of friends led from one thing to another to what was the basis of the creation of hip hop is a story


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