Review

Bobby G. Can't Swim Review

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Jun 21, 2002 | 11:59am EDT

Bobby G. (played by John-Luke Montias) is a petty coke dealer who lives and peddles his merchandise in New York City's Hell's Kitchen the area between 34th and 59th Streets from 8th Avenue to the Hudson River. Although he's sort of a punk who gets beat up on what seems like a regular basis Bobby G. is well liked by the locals including a blind man named Popeet and a shifty figure called Dollar Bill. His girlfriend Lucy (played by Susan Mitchell) turns tricks for a living but dreams of moving to what she believes to be an idyllic Puerto Rico to escape her miserable existence in the city. When a kid looking to score a kilo of cocaine approaches Bobby G. he brokers a deal with a high-level drug dealer and hopes to make a big enough profit to leave this crummy profession for good. But the deal goes terribly awry and before he knows it Bobby G.is involved in a murder with his life spiraling out of control. After a series of bizarre twists Bobby G. finds redemption--or just the opposite.

As a small-budget independent film Bobby G. Can't Swim can't impress with high-priced special effects so much of the film's appeal rests on the actors and their performances. Although some of the acting is slightly below par Montias who also wrote and directed the pic is able to carry most of the film on his own abilities. He completely emerges himself in the role of Bobby G. and delivers an impressive performance as the small-time coke dealer. Bobby G.'s character however is a bit underdeveloped: The most personal piece of information we find out about him is that his last name is Grace. As his girlfriend Lucy Mitchell is decent enough but her character is a little grating; she looks and sounds too much like a cross between Debi Mazar and Fran Drescher. In the role of Bobby G.'s drug supplier Coco Vincent Vega is more memorable especially in the scene where he finds out that Bobby G. may have put him and his family in danger. Also impressive is Norman Middleton in the role of a blind peddler named Popeet especially considering he has never acted before.

If you've ever thought that your ludicrous life would make an interesting film then you will understand where writer/director Montias is coming from. According to the production notes the film--and its cast of characters--is based on Montias' real-life experiences while working as a bartender in Hell's Kitchen. However the concept of that one final hit going wrong is not a new one--think Nine Queens or The Score--and Bobby G. Can't Swim's theme of redemption is handled in a similar fashion. In a movie that takes the protagonist through a series of life-altering events before eventually seeing the error of his ways Montias does it with a unique band of characters that gives this otherwise tired plot a refreshing spin. And while many independent films tend to be self-centered and too often about the director's vision and less about the viewer's enjoyment of the film Bobby G. Can't Swim actually does both successfully.

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