Wassup Rockers (Clark, 2005)

The first scene of Larry Clark’s latest film Wassup Rockers shows a Guatemalan teen sitting shirtless on his bed telling a story about a friend who was killed in a drive by. We aren’t sure if this is documentary or narrative, but his words are conflicted in terms of revealing too much and fragmented at trying to converse with the invasive camera. Clark then cuts to the fictional world based on the boy’s story, a recreation of the said friend being gunned down. We now know the first part is real (or the boy’s interpretation of reality), the recreation Clark’s curious parallel to the real life story told. This is both the most interesting part of Wassup Rockers, and unfortunately, the only moment when it feels like Clark has something new to say about culture, violence, and class. The rest of the film, a loose narrative following the young boy from the beginning (playing himself) and his South Central punk rocker friends during their one night adventure in Beverly Hills, feels disjointed and overly simplistic. Clark’s targets, a famous film actor, actress, and other rich snobs, are so clearly over the top, any commentary of their racism and ingorance is lost in the shuffle. The boys are non-actors too and Clark never achieves subtlety or nuance during their sometimes violent and often redundant quest to get back home. But then again, Larry Clark rarely goes for the bare-bones approach, and at his best (Bully) he daringly moves between brutal violence and aching social realism, unseen parents and haunting disaffected youths playing their modern day games of vice. But Bully works so well because of the acting by Brad Renfro and Nick Stahl, and nothing of that caliber can be found in Wassup Rockers. Seems to me a simple exercise in stating the obvious; kids of color are not welcome in the barrio’s of the rich and famous, no matter how kind or inquisitive they might be.

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