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  • AlanSmthee19 December 2002
    It is the rare feature film that makes the viewer think that he is watching a documentary. At some point, the glare of the bright lights or some errors of continuity belie the illusion and the spell is broken. Rare is the film that succeeds in its attempt to thrust the viewer into a situation, and make one feel genuine, life-or-death tension. Gang Tapes, the stunning, new film from first-time director Adam Ripp.

    The film, which will be unfairly compared to The Blair Witch Project (more on that later), is a stunning pseudo-documentary that takes the viewer on an enlightening, enthralling, intense, and often horrifying journey. Gang Tapes opens with a white family, on vacation, videotaping their trip to Southern California. Suddenly, the are attacked in their rental van, and suddenly, the camera is in the hands of the carjackers, still taping.

    The camera makes its way into the hands of a 14-year old gangsta wannabe, Kris (Trivell) who, after acquiring the camera, proceeds to tape everything in his life. The camera becomes a window into his life. It records conversations with his mother, violent beatings, the loss of his virginity, drive-by shootings, drug deals, and all the other episodes that made up the fabric of Kris' existence.

    Though some might accuse it of being episodic, that is what life is; a series of episodes strung together. Several aspects give this film its gritty realism. First, the razor-sharp editing by Tina Imahara is relentless. One forgets that this is a film because it truly feels like we are moving from one episode in Kris' life to another. Second, the film does an incredibly effective job of conveying violence. The viewer feels the punches. The gunshots are remarkably lifelike. When people get shot, you do not think that you are watching squibs and blood packets. The recoil, the deep rumble, and the reaction of the victims all feel real.

    The acting is also remarkably solid. The cast members (primarily current and former gang members) play themselves; however, that they can do this without being conscious of the camera is remarkable. The past experiences that this cast brought to the film could not have been captured by even the most talented of actors. They prove that there is nothing more convincing than reality. Trivell, who helps to carry the film, shows remarkable range. He veers from childhood to adulthood; alternating between maturity beyond his years and incredibly immaturity.

    Finally, the script is brutal and unflinching. Ripp and co-writer Steven Wolfson made a crucial decision after casting the film. Instead of hoping that they could realistically capture the sound of the street, they handed the script over to their cast, and had them translate the film into a more realistic street vernacular. This terrific decision sealed the fate of this film. In much the same way that Goodfellas captured the beats, the timing, the accents of the city streets, Gang Tapes is similarly effective at capturing the reality of life on the gang-infested streets.

    Some will be lazy and attempt to compare this film to The Blair Witch Project, which is a vastly inferior film; however, where one who watched that film never forgot that he was watching a film, in Gang Tapes, the illusion is never broken. An amazing seven-minute monologue in the middle of this film belies that fact. This film can be compared more accurately to 1995's Kids, which was also an unflinching, often-troubling look at a distinct cultural sub-section.

    The only unfortunate thing about this film is that Lions Gate films is having a very difficult time releasing it. Though it has already garnered an "R" rating from the MPAA, theater chains nationwide fear that the film will engender violence, and, accordingly, have blacklisted the film. This decision is a ludicrous one. If anything, by the end of this 81-minute masterpiece, viewers will either be so numbed or disturbed by that which they witnessed that they will walk out of the theater silent.

    Not everyone will like this film. It is challenging, uncompromising, intense, and disturbing. The language is not easy on the ears. It is real and many people are terrified by reality. Those who are offended by the "n" word are advised to stay away. The word appears numerous times in the film because it is part of the vernacular of the streets. However, those willing to take a chance and see a film that will move them and that they will not soon forget, should call their local movie theater and demand that the theater screen Gang Tapes.

    This unforgettable film remains with the viewer for days after it unspools. It is an extraordinary achievement from a director with an incredibly bright future. It is a crime to think that a film of this quality might not get the wide release it deserves. If and when it does, rest assured that it will be regarded as an instant classic. Gang Tapes is one of the best films of this or any year.
  • First time director Adam Ripp received a good bit of attention for his film Gang Tapes, unfortunately for most, it was for all the wrong reasons. The white, Jewish director was lambasted by the public for his attempt to tell the real story of the gangs in South Central Los Angeles, despite the support of that neighborhood. Theater owners refused to book the film for fear of riots and for a while it seemed all the attention the film got was bad. Its release on DVD will hopefully change some of that and perhaps the public will take a chance and view this engrossing and challenging look at gang life.

    Filmed on a meager budget (by Hollywood standards) using a digital video camera, Gang Tapes is the coming of age story of young Kris (new actor Trivell). Surrounded by a life of violence and family, the young man has many difficult choices ahead of him. Perhaps his outlook would be better if he weren't caught between his mother and his friends, who each want him to go in a different direction.

    The controversy around the film, aside from Ripp's background, stemmed from his use of the digital video and realistic style. The story starts off with a family on vacation in Hollywood. They film themselves at all the tourist locations and later get lost in South Central LA. It's at this point the story takes a shocking turn as the family is car-jacked and removed from their van by several gang members who happen to keep their camera as well. The camera, through the hands of Kris, becomes an outsiders look at not only gang life, but life in the Watts neighborhood as well.

    The unique and unorthodox method of filming let Ripp extract good performances from his mostly inexperienced cast. Comprised of several ex-gang members, the performances are real and the film is edited in a way to hide the inexperienced cast members. The comfort with which the camera is carried from scene to scene makes you believe your witnessing the inner-workings of the gang as they go trough their everyday activities.

    Ripp's film makes a powerful statement that those not familiar with the culture may find hard to believe. The fact that everyday could be your last for little more than walking out the door is a hard reality to face and an even harder one to live with. His realistic look at life in the gang shows that there's more to it than red or blue clothing and a need for power and money.

    Video: Filmed with a high-end digital camcorder, the video doesn't have the polished feel of a feature film and it would suffer if it did. Part of the power of the film comes from its slightly grainy and washed video and unsteady camera angels. To analyze the quality would be counterproductive to the whole process and idea of the film.

    Audio: The audio is a good stereo track that works perfectly in the context of the film. At times, the audio is hard to hear based on the limitations of the camera, but it's never an irritating problem. The music included in the film booms from the speakers and is mix well.

    Extras: Typical to Lions Gate, this single disc release is pack with several features. The most interesting would be the documentary that details the making of the film. More than a confirmation that it is a film, it shows the attention to detail and willingness to work with the community that allowed Ripp to work his way inside this little seen world. From the screen tests to the rewriting of the script in street lingo, it's all detailed here. There are numerous audio tracks included on the disc. Ripp has said that the music played an important part in the film and much of it is included here. A full-length music video is featured as well.

    A commentary track is available with Ripp, writer Steven Wolfson and producer David Goodman. It's an interesting track that reveals the dangers of working in such a highly volatile area. After shooting a death scene, the cast and crew are shaken when they learn that one of the actor's cousins has been killed just a short distance away. It also serves as an introduction and explanation for some of the gang terms that are used throughout the film. Definitely one of the more interesting commentary tracks to come along.

    Overall: Gang Tapes is a highly original and innovative film that missed its audience upon its initial release due the controversy that it might have caused. Despite that fact, Lions Gate has given it an appropriate DVD release that will hopefully allow this film to find the audience it so deserves. The violent and sometimes shocking look at gang culture is definitely not for everyone, but it should not be overlooked.
  • "Gang Tapes" doesn't pussyfoot around. One is immediately assailed by so many utterances of the word "niggah" that you begin to wonder why most black people are so offended when they hear "whitey" say it. The term brackets practically every declarative sentence in the dialog. Nearly as bad is the continuous use of profanity of the most objectionable sort. "Cyril" is the worst of this group of violent young criminals. Just out of jail, the first thing he does is take a tire iron to the head of a guy walking down the street with his girlfriend. The apparently senseless act starts a cycle of violence between the gang and their chief rivals in the hood that takes out one after another of the film's main characters. Ironically, we never find out exactly what happened to Cyril. Engaged in a violent argument with Alonzo and his fellow gang members following an aborted home invasion, he utters one of the film's most memorable lines: "Niggah, I don't give a f**k if you don't give a f**k so shut the f**k up, mothahf**kah ... niggah!" Later, while practicing with his Uzi in the L.A. River basin, he explains to Kris how his name was changed from "Action" to Cyril. Here, he comes off as slightly less violent and stupid than at other times, although he is still strangely immature for his age. "It was long before you started coming outside," he explains to his young comrade. Another of the gang members actually strikes one as thoughtful. He wants out of the lifestyle and attempts to discourage Kris from becoming either a carbon copy of his older brother, the crack salesman Alonzo, for whom there are actually ethical lines he refuses to cross, or much worse, the unapologetic sociopath, Cyril, who recognizes no boundaries.

    I have to disagree with those who claim the film is so brilliant that it is without significant flaws. The low quality of the video is evident throughout, and although amateurish use of the camera would be expected from a 14-year-old amateur videographer (who must be given points for creating a stable platform on the handle bars of his bike), it keeps the movie from being as good as it might have been. Also, the theme music behind the audio track practically drowns out the conversation at several points and is very distracting. The party scenes and rap sessions are overlong, annoying, and too noisy. Several of the young women in the film are quite pretty, well-dressed and intelligent, which adds a pleasant element, but frankly, one does not expect that to be the case in a bad neighborhood. Alonzo's girlfriend is especially cute, as is the voluptuous young woman who decides to make the virginal Kris "into a man." His mom is one of the nicest looking ladies, by the way, although she seems strangely unaware of the life and death struggle going on with her two sons. The final credits reveal that she performed several of the songs for the movie. All in all, this is an interesting movie, if rather shocking and overwhelming. Despite the talent of the actors, the subject matter does not reflect well on black people, in general. As such, it is understandable if some object to it's airing, although the suppression and censorship of artistic expression should never be embraced.
  • RoYaBoat30 November 2005
    I hate the fact that movies like this go unnoticed. I came across this movie by accident while renting a DVD at my local video store. I have a particular interest in this culture and I think it portrays a pretty accurate account of what happens in this way of life. I was totally fixed on this movie. I loved the directors passion to make this film what it was and it showed in the result. Before I saw the credits I thought this was a documentary and thought to take an idea like this and make it look convincing was something that had to be recognised.

    I liked the fact that none of them really wore their "colours" helped the feeling of the movie even more and the only real representation of "crip" was done though gang signs and rapping. OK also through bandannas but even Alonzo was wearing a grayish one on his arm which could have become confusing to some viewers. i just loved the fact that it wasn't OBVIOUS.

    I would also put this film in the same category as "Kids" and even put it up there with "Rize" because movies like "Gang Tapes" the two I just mentioned don't come around too often and hardly get the recognition that they deserve. So congrats to all involved in this film. To any of u budding film makers out there make more film like this because I know I would if I had the talent!! Take Care and goodnight.
  • xawn14 February 2003
    I wouldnt describe this film as awful. The fact that all the film is shot through a camcorder makes one feel he is part of the furniture. The dialogues are somewhat tedious, but thats reality i guess. Possibility more could have been done when it comes to credibility. However, something fresh all the same!
  • This movie has no point, no plot, no discernible script, no reason for existing except to disparage black people.

    There may be redemption at some point, but 45 mins into it, I'm cutting my losses.

    I gave it a 2 b/c it did give people in the South Central community an opportunity to work on a film.

    But this "realistic" portrayal is in reality a pointless, disgusting parade of stereotypes and profanity.

    If you like seeing black people fight like Komodo Dragons over whatever in the moment captivates them, then you'll love this movie.

    If you actually believe in the concept of a human being, I suggest you steer clear of this travesty.
  • evenbernick19 May 2006
    I can't adequately describe how shocked I am. I picked this movie up on a kind of lark, simply looking for something that looked interesting. I wandered into a masterpiece. From the first frame, this film is captivating, confident, and shocking. It's so good that by the end, you're holding your breath, praying that it doesn't fall apart, as you assume it must. It never does. I don't know where this movie came from, who any of the actors are, who the director is, nothing... but if you have any interest in gang behavior, or the human beings involved in it, you have no business not seeing this movie.

    Seriously, folks, this is great stuff. This is coming from a guy who thought "Boyz N the Hood" was overrated, and who thought "Menace II Society" was the closest cinema was ever going to get to the streets. I was wrong. You watch this film in awe, because nobody seems to be acting, nobody seems to be directing... indeed, nothing seems to be being filmed. There is a scene where there is a home invasion and one of the women in the house is raped. I looked around the empty room I was sitting in, as if I had inadvertently become a party to a felony.

    But, you ask, what is this movie ABOUT? What happens in it? What am I walking into?

    Trust me, it's better not to know. I walked into this movie cold, knowing nothing but what I got from the advertising blurb. Read the back of the DVD, and plunge in like I did. You will not regret it.

    I can't stress this any more: if you love cinema, you owe it to yourself to see "Gang Tapes." And yes, if you told me that an hour and thirty minutes ago, I'd have laughed heartily at you.

    This isn't a gold mine. This is a cache of platinum. Stop whatever you're doing, and dive in. Trust me, you'll want to campaign in the streets for this masterpiece. Only my better judgment prevents me from doing the same.
  • I was quite keen to see Gang Tapes being a fan of 'hood movies but it was not an easy task. Being reasonably unknown in general and not what would usually come to mind when the topic of ghetto/hood/gang banging movies is brought up (that spot is usually reserved for "Boyz N The Hood" and "Menace II Society"), it wasn't at any of the video shops I visited. After looking for it for some time I eventually gave up. But last week I was searching for a good movie at my video shop when I noticed they had bought a copy of "Gang Tapes".I rented it out and found it was worth the wait.

    What would draw most people away from this movie is the cover, R18 rating and a grisly summary or review on the back. But despite all this the movie is not overly violent at all. There are some pretty bad moments that makes this definitely not a family movie, but I still don't think it deserves an R18. The only over the top thing in this movie is the offensive language, but that probably wouldn't faze anyone because bad language is commonplace in all 'hood movies.

    Some people have said that it is pointless because all it does is show gang life. Which is true. It does realistically show gang life, but that is no reason to put it down. Now, I'm not saying that "Gang Tapes" is better than "GoodFellas", but "GoodFellas" just shows life in the mafia and nobody puts it down.

    One might say it is "just another 'hood movie" and it is another 'hood movie, but Adam Ripp (director and writer) and the rest of the crew have managed to make it different from the others. For starters, it is filmed all from the point of view of a young teenage boy living in South Central L.A. which is an original twist. Another interesting thing is that the bulk of the main cast are all gang members, ex-gang members or have grown up in South Central and have added realism to the story and dialogue. The writers have also made the plot different from what you would usually see in movie of this genre.

    The acting is probably better than what most people would expect. As I said before, the gang members are played by actual gang members so they are easily able to pull it off. And performing on camera doesn't matter to them because it's meant to be a home video, so they can look at the camera etc.

    Thumbs up for director and co-writer Adam Ripp. Watching the special features I can see he is very passionate about his movie. I feel sorry for him because his movie didn't really become as popular as some other 'hood movies, but at least he knows he made a great movie. Thumbs up for the cast and crew as well.

    Overall this is a great movie if you look past the obvious. Anybody who is a fan of 'hood movies should love it and if you are someone who isn't you should still check it out and remember some of the points I made above.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Where "Straight Outta Compton" explores the birth of rap and the rise of the godfathers of the genre, this film explores the grittier, meaner, more violent side to the culture. A carjacking results in a camcorder falling into the hands of a fourteen year old, up and coming banger. He takes it with him everywhere, and films everything. From the raps and rhymes of some of his homies to the creation of crack cocaine for sale; from the sexcapades of his gang to the drive by shootings, everything is exposed in graphic, gut-wrenching detail. This film puts a face to the inner city urban blight that is affecting the African Americans in this country. Be they from Compton and Watts, or be they from Detroit, their despair is poignantly displayed.

    Yes, the choices made by the black youths in this country are theirs to own, but with urban school systems set up for failure, and broken relationships; with no real, relevant role models, these youths' choices are limited. Growing up around this kind of violence and criminality leave them with little direction to go. This film speaks to that stagnancy and loss of potentiality in a way that few others do.
  • travonowens28 November 2009
    I am from that area and it is just another stereotype blown out of proportion by a white guy. He will probably go home and laugh about all of this in his house in Beverly Hills. All it needed were some watermelon's and fried chicken to complete the circle of ignorance. These types of movies do more harm than good because they think that because they won an award from a black film festival in northern California where white people were the audience, it is OK to portray black people from this area in such negativity. There were plenty of guns, sex, rap music, drugs, single mothers and any other violent thing that they could think of like a black man that just got out of jail and raped a innocent women and white people who were lost in south central that got car jacked because that is the only way a black kid could afford one according to them.
  • =G=11 December 2002
    "Gang Tapes" is supposed to take the viewer inside an L.A. street gang via a jacked camcorder. The idea is; the person holding the videocam is a gang member who simply tapes the daily activities of his gang including murder, rape, drugs, robbery, etc. You know, the stuff gangs do every day. The problem with the flick, aside from its threadbare subject, is the whole production is purposely awful to give it that authentic shaky-cam feel while the scenes appear contrived with phony looking stage blood, obviously pulled punches, bad acting, etc. Bottom line: Reality films have poor quality because they're REAL. Trying to lend reality to a film using intentionally poor quality doesn't work when they subjects aren't real. The result is simply poor execution. (D)
  • For starters to understand my perspective I grew up in East St. Louis, Il more specifically Washington Park. (look it up -99% African American, gang affiliated, literally most violent city in the country yes worst than Detroit). I'm African American and were gang affiliated. I've lost friends and family to the streets, Seen people die, shot and been shot at.

    This is the most fictitious story I've ever seen. I watched and skimmed through this for the first time today on Netflix. probably never seen the any part of a real gang neighborhood, and wanted to shoot his racist perception of black America with cheap non gang member actors

    Regarding the Gang violence seen: This is not at all reality , first off gang members, we don't really like bs like social media or being photographed with other gang members and certainly not being recorded. When i was an active in gang life, we wouldn't let anyone record us talking about or committing crimes or anything of that nature. as seen in this film rape, cooking "crack", shootings, murder, assault, home invasion, false imprisonment/kidnapping, armed robbery, and unlawful display of a firearm. And certainly you don't go saying your name and what gang you are to the one time (police) Camera = STATEEVIDENCE.

    In regards to how Black Americans were perceived: This movie really did not portray life as a black American, so our apologies to all the non Americans that commented saying how amazing this movie was. This movie is as far-fetched as it would be for me to write about life in the country where your from or hell better yet, what its like to live in Jupiter 500 years from now. In the video parts that i seen, was the boy talking to his sister and asking her to do her homework she was proud that she did not do it, and despite chewing food claimed not to eat because her brother wouldn't feed her. Fun fact, Most Black children start learning to cook as early as age 3, especially females. By age 9 they're able to cook full meals, and entrusted in the kitchen with most everything except grease. Also children of single mothers, usually in most cases have more respect for their female siblings and females in general. Also Black people aren't at all uneducated. The quality of education however is lacking. The system is designed to pay less to teachers in areas with denser black population, provide less resources, lower standardization and expectations. There for we don't have the same opportunity to learn and the teachers whom we do have, are really there for the paycheck and could care less for the student. For the information we do get, What we deem useful we retain, and we attempt to increase our knowledge in. But truly, we cant learn what we're unaware of. For instance. Growing up the high school counselor's didn't have conversations with us regarding college, Not with the black kids. It was conversations about joining the military or job corps. My Gpa was high 3's. With some of the kids i knew who were white, same or lower gpa's and same counselors, those conversation included college applications, grants and scholarships. Myself and majority of the people i went to school with Graduated, rather through traditional school or alternative. but those whom didn't because of whatever life circumstance, still seek and achieved obtaining a GED. Which is why in this country even though, to get a GED you have to pass a testing equivalent to what would be required to pass an exit exam in High school, the GED is looked down upon. Because it really shows we have the ability to learn, comprehend, and apply the same knowledge at the same level and dedication regardless of the drop out rate.

    A Black person can go to college, work hard, and even possibly own a business and yet still wont have (according to researchers) the same value, social standing, or net-worth as a Caucasian person, who perhaps had an equally or even poorer upbringing and debt. Another things is that same broken education system doesn't take the time to teach us about 401k, investments, credit, insurance, and other benefits, that help us set our self up financially , what is taught is state aid, food stamps, and slavery always is a big topic especially in February (black history month). The reason why slavery is a big topic in black history month is because politically that's all we were seen as and will be seen as, and the only history they want blacks to know, not the accomplishments that we do have, or the potential to become more. So we learn an ancestral hatred for whites due to a deep everlasting hurt and try to gain understanding while still being oppressed and being taught to oppress ourselves at the same time. *But what should be taught and what you should know is how beautiful our culture is, how tolerant we are to injustice, and how creative blacks are. In bible stories like Moses and other stories like Cleopatra, Egyptians are always portrayed as Caucasians, because as beautifully crafted that culture is, whites cannot place into comprehension blacks being sophisticated, educated, creative, or talented enough, and never the less, being a dominant race to have such a huge part of history. Think about it 400 years just with the Egyptians enslaving the Jews. and how old is America? a little over half. Its the same reasons why now and days there's a white actor playing the lead role in most American made Asian films.

    Anyway point is this movie was unrealistic and garbage. The only reason the actors played this was for a check and the only reason the director/writers made this was out of their own ignorance and there need to project their racist and invalid views of what blacks are about.
  • When Gang Tapes reaches theaters in 2002, stuffy critics will undoubtedly describe it as: "Blair Witch meets Boyz in the Hood." Of course, this description doesn't do justice to Gang Tapes. Directed by Adam Ripp (in his directorial debut), Gang Tapes is far more coherent and engrossing than the dreadful Blair Witch, and succeeds in making the once-potent Boyz in the Hood now look like an after-school special. Like Kids (1995), Gang Tapes pulls no punches. Murders, sodomy, beatings, and drive-by shootings are all shown on camera, albeit in a way which serves the story and is unsensationalistic. So, if Gang Tapes deserves a nickname at all, that name should be "HOODFELLAS". The story begins when a young teenager named Kris "acquires" a garden variety camcorder from John and Jane Q. Tourist. Armed with his newly liberated camera and tape, young Kris proceeds to document everything: the violent, humorous, tragic, joyous, and sexual moments of his world.

    While by no means a perfect film, Gang Tapes works well as a minimally plotted study of lost teenaged souls; it also feels like an informal rebirth of Italian neo-realist cinema. There are no "name actors" in the film. There is no hot young rapper, no comedian, and no heartthrob to look at. Instead, Gang Tapes offers a cast of mostly non-actors performing with gusto. If you're hoping Gang Tapes will "let you off the hook" with wall-to-wall, watered-down pop tunes, forget it. Gang Tapes' soundtrack is hardcore rap, which perfectly accentuates the equally rough-edged events. With a digital camera recording all of the goings-on, there are no Ophulsian tracking shots or lengthy Steadicam moves -- only a handheld look at the brutal concrete jungles of South Central Los Angeles. In Gang Tapes' world, all Hollywood presuppositions are thrown to the wind: even the nice guys get killed. Yet Gang Tapes is not just about brutality. Ripp and co-writer Steven Woolfson carefully examine their characters but don't waste time judging them. Instead, the script subtly addresses issues pertaining to media. For example, when Serial commits his first act of violence after being parolled, he immediately wants to see a replay of his handiwork. This moment is far more telling than all of the heavy-handed (and pedestrian) "Fifteen Minutes"(2001), which dealt more centrally with on-camera crimes. Kris's humorous "test drive" of the digital camera recalls the joy of David Holtzman's cinematic discovery in the sadly underrated "David Holtzman's Diary" (1968). Gang Tapes will undoubtedly incite controversy and divide audiences when it is released: Some will say it is sensationalistic, while others will applaud its raw cinematic power. But, ultimately, it offers first-rate performances, and an effective (if episodic) script. With his directorial debut, Adam Ripp succeeds in creating a sobering look at hell on Earth -- and the lives living in it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "spoilers" well this is a diamond in the ruff. When i first heard about this film from friends i was interested in it straight away. I have a huge interest in gang culture, life and all the extras that go with it, death, prison etc. When i finally had the chance i bought it from a local high street store very expensive but worth it. I go home that night and put it on, at first i really did not know what to expect i new it was going to be a kind of "a day in the life of a gangster" but had no idea it was like it turned out to be.

    Using untrained actors and real gang members as the cast, the performance's are realistic and nothing short of breath taking. The dv cam angle comes off very well giving an ultra realistic feeling to the proceedings. The way in which drugs are made and battle's are fought are also very realistic "speaking from experience" and only add to this involving, thrilling ride of a movie.

    The director Adam Ripp seems to be a very competent film maker, using subtle yet very effective camera and editing techniques. He dose however seem to be more of an actors director similar to "Scum" director Alan Clarke generating great performances and producing one of the finest films of the genre.
  • xawn14 February 2003
    I would describe this film as awful. The fact that all the film is shot through a camcorder makes one feel he is part of the furniture. The dialogues are somewhat tedious, but thats reality i guess. Possibility more could have been done when it comes to credibility. However, something fresh all the same!
  • I saw 'GANG TAPES' not long ago.. I must admit, it looks like the director (ADAM RIPP) really want to do this movie in a way where the viewer is seeing all the events, in a real life situation.. Yeah! There's so many stories about the L.A. gangbangers.. The questions of whys, hows, and whos are glamourized to coincide of what really happens out there..

    If you compare this to 'BOYZ IN THE HOOD', I think there is a difference of how the two stories unfold from one another..

    To sum this all up, Adam Ripp certainly did give the viewer the impression that what you're seeing is real.. And you have to see it for real..

    But in the end, it's entertaining but I find it a bit unusual for a gangster film unlike this one..

    Hopefully, Adam Ripp will give us more entertaining next time..
  • I wanted to review this higher and enjoy it more but it failed on many levels. If you want make something into a documentary you need to make things believable. Obviously if they are committing these crimes they are not going to let the kid record their actions, including selling drugs and committing murder. The cops also approached while they were supposed to be dealing but we are to believe they wouldn't check the tape of the video camera. We are also supposed to believe one of them came out of jail and was cool being filmed after coming back to the free world? Not to mention I was able to tell the fake coke was baking soda before he even showed the baking soda. Another scene they were hitting cops that showed up immediately on the scene. I could tell this film was fake as he'll from the beginning since people were trying too steal his video camera and at that moment Alonzo shows up? Hmmm...... They should have focused on this movie because if they paid a little more attention to the quality and not just putting anything together for a whopping hour with rap and silly monologues that you don't even want to listen to. The gun shots were also added because the Levels would have been off and there would have been an echo, though I'm not blaming the creators for doing it this way. Also what's up with the bad acting love scene where she says she's pregnant. That really didn't add anything to the film for me.
  • I just came across this on IMDb years after I'd seen it and was surprised to find the low reviews score. 5.8???

    This film was a great depiction of American gang life. Not that I've ever been in a gang or anything like that, but nonetheless there is no mistaking the authentic feeling of the film. The plot itself drives this feeling of authenticity with the starting scene setting up a story line told from the personal perspective of one the gang members.

    It is his personal involvement in the gang activities through which we get a detailed, intimate look into the days of this gang, with the context of this successes and hierarchy in the gang very much a determinant of the path of the story line.
  • the_Snark20 November 2011
    I am not particularly fascinated with gang life, I generally don't like watching depressing movies, and I'm not a big fan of mocumentary/found-footage films. I actually passed over this one several times for those reasons. I fully expected to hit the stop button within the first five minutes.

    As it turns out, I made it through the whole thing. I do not *like* the subject matter, the language, events, behavior of the characters, but I have a great appreciation for how realistic the film manages to be and that it pulls off allowing you to maintain throughout the belief that you are watching an actual slice of someone's life recorded on tape.

    I didn't feel that it glorified gang life beyond what was believable for the characters to feel. It didn't attempt to candy-coat events, but at the same time I didn't feel like it was making too much of an effort to squeeze in as much violence/sex/gore as possible. These themes figure prominently, but not unexpectedly so.

    One thing I believe was key to making the film feel realistic to me was that I did not get the impression that it was attempting to force any particular message on me. It didn't feel like there was an agenda, a moral to the story (though you can find one if you care to), a structured script/cookie-cutter storyline, nothing to disrupt the feeling of being a fly on the wall.

    Overall I thought it was very well done and believable, and would encourage anyone else who might be hesitating to check it out.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film is one of the best hood films I've seen so far. More than any other movie I've seen, this truly captures the tragedy, fear, and challenge of growing up in the ghetto. I should note that I'm not from a poor neighborhood, so I can't accurately attest to the actual reality of the film; however, based on other films I've seen, this is truly a masterpiece.

    I went into this film not quite sure if it was a documentary or not- I didn't read the information on it too closely. As I got farther into it, I became even less sure one way or the other. I kept hoping it was fake, but thinking it could be real. It's gritty, horrifying, and uncompromising in its look at life in the Watts neighborhood. When the home invasion scene came up, and I saw that woman being raped and that little girl almost being killed, I felt like I had witnessed something I wasn't supposed to see. Like I was complicit in the crime.

    I could see the agony and anger in the actors' faces and it almost never seemed like they were acting. Since most of the actors in the film are ex-gang members, I guess they pulled those emotions out from somewhere deep inside themselves to give some of the most convincing and exquisitely acted performances I've seen in these types of movies- not perfect acting as far as technique goes, but perfect in the sense that I never felt like I was watching something scripted.

    I felt like I was with them, a part of their lives. I was angry when they committed needless crimes. I was sad when they lost their friends. I was shocked when Kris was shot. I felt like I was a part of it. When Kris began keeping secrets from his mother about who he was becoming, I felt guilty with him.

    There were only three times in the whole film where I felt like I was watching something scripted. In the beginning, with the white family, it felt a little forced and awkward (but what family isn't?). The other two times were when we took a brief break from the violence. One character was talking about the fact that no one ever told him he could be whatever he wanted, that all he was ever told about was the hood, and later in the hospital he told Kris that Kris had a choice in life about who he wanted to be. Those parts felt like a lesson or moral was being sneaked in and felt a little scripted. It was also a little weird when one character was saying that there were rules and regulations in gang life, and he was explaining the gang situation. That didn't quite seem genuine. Other than those brief moments, nothing felt fake.

    I see the triumph of this movie as being the fact that I thought it was real, and that I hoped it wasn't. I didn't want it to be real, because then I would feel complicit in more crime than I could ever imagine in my life, let alone the span of less than one year.

    This film should be more widely known, should be more popular. This brings a level of reality to street crime and gang culture that other movies, that the news, that nothing else can achieve. This doesn't glorify or romanticize violence. It makes you feel guilty and frightened and you just want it to stop. Other movies make it seem cool to kill people or rape women or steal, but this movie shows that none of that really feels OK. That none of it really is OK. It's messy and sad and scary and even the experienced gangsters haven't gotten quite used to it. They'll never be used to it, and they shouldn't be. This makes murder look real. This makes the horror of rape look real. The terror, the shock, the anger that results from all of it. After the rape scene, even the other gang members were angry, they were upset and horrified at the unconscionable act that had just been committed (even though they had all almost killed a child for some money).

    Overall, SEE THIS MOVIE. You might regret it, but only because you will feel like you've been through something, seen things you would rather not have witnessed. This movie will stay with you, and make you think like other movies haven't.
  • Very steady-handed directing anchors this low-budget urban indie about a stolen, shakily-held camcorder. Surprisingly well-made and acted; solid, naturalistic performances all around, and not a missed emotional note or utterly implausible story spot to be found. Plot's really nothing new, just told from a somewhat refreshing point of view -- that of a teen male who finds himself in his community's vortex of violence, nihilism and despair and the incessant tensions that such an atmosphere breeds. I'd say the director achieved what he attempted to do quite well. And he's not too preachy or heavy-handed with the project's anti-gang message -- thus making it quite an effective and un-glamorized cinematic little sermon. It gets genuinely intense at times as a result of its ultra-realistic sheen and assured acting, and it's well-paced and never dull, even when character's are unleashed to tell their tales to the protagonist's camera at length. Overall, an enjoyable little movie, well-conceived, executed (no pun intended -- lot's of violent shootings), and again, very solidly acted for the genre. Don't expect much - you too will be presently surprised.
  • 'Gang Tapes' is a serious and fascinating look into life in south central LA. The movie does not try to become a larger than life portrayal of the gangsta life it documents. Instead it pretends to be an actual camera recording of a boy and his surroundings as he grows up. In this respect, 'Gang Tapes' excels phenomenally. You will have to remind yourself constantly that it is not a documentary you are watching, but a film. 'Gang Tapes' does not break this superior reality at all. The actors never seem fake, except for slight faults in Lonzo's strange fascination with showing off, all of the gangbanger's seem real throughout 'Gang Tapes'. One surprise though, is the gunshots heard throughout the film. Because of my past experience with these Gangsta B-movies (of which I have become quite a collector)I was expecting the usual dubbed over, pathetic shots that sound either to loud, or to quiet for the gun that was fired. 'Gang Tapes' again keeps to reality, each shot sounds as it should, loud and uncontrollable. This helps to create the film's impressive, yet gritty reality. Perhaps the only downfall of 'Gang Tapes' is the large amounts of all talk/ no action scenes throughout the film. These sequences are often just large fragments of conversation from Lonzo to another gangbanger.Though boring, these scenes reveal each characters perfectly realistic personalities. They are important parts of the film's structure.

    All in all 'Gang Tapes' is an accurate depiction of the lives of the residents in South Central LA.

  • TrevorMortsyn12 September 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    First off, I wanna say, I was blown away. The realism was fantastic, believable, which is hard to pull off, and Gang Tapes did it. Realism, in a film like this, is essential, to advance the overall story. Which, Gang Tapes flawlessly obtained. And that is why this movie works, unlike most of the other reality/narrative films, i've seen. The film captured something real. And I dug it, to where my eyes were glued to the screen.

    Second, the characters. Everyone's performance was brilliant, and well crafted. I really enjoyed the fact that Kris was the protagonist. To have such a young, impressionable, minor as the lead, really carries the story. I mean the fact that, Kris is stuck in the center of all these situations, is really quite brilliant. His innocence being corrupted by friends & family gives a very nice character arch. The question is will he take the wrong path? Amazing. True, and again real. The antagonist is the future. The time to come. What will Kris do with his life. Will he become like those, who are around him, with no real future. And eventually it does, seduce him to do the wrong thing, and results in to his death.

    I also really enjoyed the POV, inside the eyes of who holds the camera. It makes the film, personable, as if I really lived through these experiences. Keeping my butt planted in the seat, living through the camcorder. Leaving me shocked, and startled. The horrific images, that was only myth, however I do know this really happens everyday. And that's what scares me knowing this really happens, it does. The film came to life, giving me an inside, on these subjects. Nicely done. If someone would have told me, this is real. Truth be told, I'd believe it. Which, is very impressive, Gang Tapes captured just that.

    Great, great, that's all I can say. The realism was brilliant, the idea was creative and fresh. I've never seen a film like this before. Bravo, bravo.
  • I can't adequately describe how shocked I am. I picked this movie up on a kind of lark, simply looking for something that looked interesting. I wandered into a masterpiece. From the first frame, this film is captivating, confident, and shocking. It's so good that by the end, you're holding your breath, praying that it doesn't fall apart, as you assume it must. It never does. I don't know where this movie came from, who any of the actors are, who the directors are, nothing... but if you have any interest in gang behavior, or the human beings involved in it, you have no business not seeing this movie.

    Seriously, folks, this is great stuff. This is coming from a guy who thought "Boyz N the Hood" was overrated, and who thought "Menace II Society" was the closest cinema was ever going to get to the streets. I was wrong. You watch this film in awe, because nobody seems to be acting, nobody seems to be directing... indeed, nothing seems to be being filmed. There is a scene where there is a home invasion and one of the women in the house is raped. I looked around the empty room I was sitting in, as if I had inadvertently become a party to a felony.

    But, you ask, what is this movie ABOUT? What happens in it? What am I walking into? Trust me, it's better not to know. I walked into this movie cold, knowing nothing but what I got from the advertising blurb. Read the back of the DVD, and plunge in like I did. You will not regret it.

    I can't stress this any more: if you love cinema, you owe it to yourself to see "Gang Tapes." And yes, if you told me that an hour and thirty minutes ago, I'd have laughed heartily at you. And if you think I'm unqualified to make that judgment, I'd turn you to my DVD library, which includes everything from Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev to Kurosawa's Ikiru to Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar, to, yes, Menace II Society.

    This isn't a gold mine. This is a cache of platinum. Stop whatever you're doing, and dive in. Trust me, you'll want to campaign in the streets for this masterpiece. Only my better judgment prevents me from doing the same.

    BTW, to the ignorant mf who posted about the director being a Jewish Whitey who didn't know what he was talking about... as somebody who has studied gang behavior in Los Angeles extensively, let me tell you that "Gang Tapes" has it DOWN... from the gang signs, to the names (Kris is called Lil Alonzo after his initiator) to the language, to the blue flags around the wrists (Alonzo and co. are Eastside Crips).

    Simply put, you don't know what you're talking about. Try this on for size-- do you even know what "set tripping" means? Thought so.
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