June 4th, 2021
STARRING: KELVIN HARRISON JR., CHARLIE PLUMMER, JONATHAN MAJORS, JACOB LATIMORE, AMBER HEARD, JOHN CORBETT, TERRENCE HOWARD
DIRECTED BY: NABIL ELDERKIN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 STAR (Out of 4)
The journey for Gully to arrive has been a long one, originally premiering at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, it was delayed in release due to the pandemic, and now finally has a moment in theaters. It’s a sad arrival as well, because Nabil Elderkin’s film has an all-star cast of actors, trapped in a messy script, in a movie that never knows exactly what point it’s trying to make. It’s a story about three Los Angeles teenagers, all from broken homes, all victims of traumatic moments, and all three would do anything for one another. They’d even go to the point of killing someone. Gully is a mess of a movie. It’s three teenagers going wild one night, fed up with life, and spiraling down a dirty drain. Gully wants to speak up about trauma, tight friendships, violent outbursts, and none of it makes any true sense. After watching Gully you might need a shower.
I’m not trying to be insensitive to the subject that writer Marcus J. Guillory and director Nanil Elderkin are portrayed in this movie. There’s much to be said about the mental health of others and how living in a toxic upbringing is detrimental to children. That’s all good, but with Gully the name of the game is total misery. There’s nothing redeeming about any of these characters. Calvin (Jacob Latimore) is the leader of the group, while Nicky (Charlie Plummer) is the sweeter type, and Jesse (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is completely silent. With each of them there’s something that sets them on their path. Calvin without a father, after he was shot by a police officer. Nicky saddled with watching his little brother often because his drug addicted mother (Amber Heard) needs to work at night. And then Jesse is completely silent because he was kidnapped at a young age by his molesting “father” (played by John Corbett). With stories like this, I believe the point is that we’re supposed to agree with, or at least understand their destructive behavior. It’s all depressing to me.
This is the first time feature for Elderkin, which might be the excuse for why the various threads and styles never bring the narrative together. All three kids enjoy playing violent Grand Theft Auto style video games. They randomly decide to have a night where they treat their lives as the game; Running around L.A. stealing cars, taking advantage of women, drinking at a club, and even violently killing a driver that had the audacity to cut them off. Intermixed are various video game graphics and periodically we see flashbacks of moments in their life. It’s at this point where the audience is lost, because if you were rooting for the three characters, you now just see them as turning to violence, and the cycle of children living in broken homes is incredibly tragic. If that’s the point, there would still be better ways to do it. A movie like Moonlight revealed the struggle of children growing up this way, but there’s redemption, there is empathy, with Gully it’s a void of all emotions.
It’s also just sad for the three actors Plummer, Latimore, and Harrison. All three are strong in their roles, willingly committed to the characters, and doing the best they can offer. Sadly, all three actors are already too old to play high school students, and the narrative never pauses for us to get into their heads. For Harrison’s character his only communication is via voiceover in the beginning, brief moments in the middle, and end. Each of those VO’s is a standard diatribe of growing up or how life wasn’t supposed to be like this. It’s just another notch of problems existing in Gully.
It’s impossible to recommend Gully. It’s not something to be entertained by, there’s not much of a lesson learned, other than humans suck, and the style isn’t anything new. It’s above all just a movie you want to be better. Stories about teenagers growing up or life hitting them fast can work- see Waves, Jonah Hill’s Mid90’s, or the Sundance hit Dope– all movies that have a better grasp on growing up with the weight of the world crushing you. Gully shifts between asking us to sympathise and despise these characters, but by the end, you just hate everything about it.
GULLY IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY JUNE 4TH
Written by: Leo Brady