First, you know writer/director Byron Q created something “good” when the media gets shut out of screenings because it’s sold out! Such was the case with us at the Los Angeles premiere in May when we planned to do a review of the film as a followup to our interview with Byron Q, Thai Ngo, David Huynh and Jessika Van! The film has gone on to screenings in other cities and continues to play to packed audiences.
The Orange County, CA premiere this week gave us another opportunity to catch the film which we did…and this film is RAW! That is the perfect word to discribe the film, not just because of the writing and directing, but the visual style, the solid “real” acting and the very documentary feel of the film. From the opening sequence the film makes you part of what is happening like you are there with the cast experiencing what they experience. Using both a script and improvisation, Byron has also allowed the film to breathe and take on a much bigger life than the confines of what the actors were given to learn. There is a natural flow to conversation and an authenticity to the language. Thai Ngo, a well-known musical artist, is impressive in his acting debut as lead character Justin. David Huynh plays his side-kick Charlie and shows, as he does with every role he touches it seems, an ability to bring subtle nuances to a role that makes the character so complex. Walter Wong is another actor in the film that provides a standout performance, and Jessika Van just isn’t seen enough! If there is a drawback, it’s the fact that the viewer is left a bit unsatisfied and wanting to know more about the characters and where they came from and how their bonds developed. And here is one of the very interesting things about this film…there are genuine “laugh out loud” moments that work (which you wouldn’t expect) in such a brutal, very real feeling film about gang life, because it brings to life the bond these guys have as friends. Byron’s feature film debut is a great film to call “my first.”