Review in it's entirety:

"Gutter King": Violence that Hurts

"Gutter King" it is a tremendous juvenile drama in which the violence is not a game or a spectacle, but a tragedy that follows its hard-living characters in their daily fight to survive, a life as difficult as if they were prostitutes.

Will (Zeb Crown) leaves a juvenile center when Bob (Casey Clark) agrees to take responsibility of him. At first, Bob appears to be a charitable soul dedicated to removing young people from the streets with the intention of giving them a better life, but appearances are deceiving. Will wants to behave and integrate himself into his new family, and has no desire to start trouble that returns him to the juvenile center. His brother in the new family is Paul (Blake Logan), who also left the center, but is unwilling to lose the position he has won with Bob. Will finds incentive to stay on the straight-and-narrow in BeBe (Erica Ramirez), the next-door neighbor whose short life also has not been easy. Nevertheless, Will is marked by violence that has pursued him and realizes it will remain part of his life, if only to make money.

This powerful film by a director unknown to me, Keith Alan Morris, who also wrote the script, is surprising in that the violence is dealt with extreme care and respect, as opposed to the superficiality with which we are used to seeing from directors like Guy Ritchie, Danny Boyle or David Fincher. It is not a genre film that alternates action sequences to develop an archetypal story, as if it were a musical that needed a song or choreographed climax.

"Gutter King" is closer to the early films of Martin Scorsese, in that the approach to the violence comes from a prudent and responsible perspective of trying to understand the characters and the motives for their behavior. Titles like "Who's That Knocking At My Door", "Mean Streets", "Taxi Driver" or "Raging Bull" make similar arguments -- although aesthetically the movie alludes to more recent films like "Goodfellas" and "Casino" (with a couple of winks to the former). It is not inappropriate that the soundtrack has unique and suggestive echoes of the ambient music that Bernard Herrmann composed for "Taxi Driver".

"Nobody gives something for nothing."

All the elements of the film work in accordance with the psychology of the characters: the cinematography of Matthew Hutchens is as hard as the lives onscreen, Gregory Kerrick's editing tracks the movement of the characters in its cuts, the mise en scene is so realistic that some of the blows almost hurt the viewer, and the soundtrack is full of the same rage that consumes the protagonists.

The film's technical team's realism is surprising, orchestrated by a director who uses his scenes to convey ideas with images, rather than with dialogue. Scenes carry weight, such as one of money on the ground at the end of a fight which is carried away by the wind; when BeBe desperately searches for Will to stop him fighting for money but falls into Paul's trap (echoing a scene in "A Streetcar Named Desire" — in line with the admiration felt by Martin Scorsese for Elia Kazan); or in the simple looks of the characters, for which no additional verbal explanation is required.

The evolution of these characters, so strong physically but weak psychologically, takes us through dehumanized scenes devoid of compassion, in which violence is not an option, it is a way of life. The one that survives is not only the stronger and more enduring—but, replacing prostitution with fighting--the body and its strength are the main enemies.

By Luis M. Álvarez

translated by Kevin Leech

From a test screening, a sampling of comments:

"I thought this was an amazing film and I believe it shows that you don’t need a multi million dollar budget to make a great movie. It had story, character, romance, action, comedy.. everything needed to make a superb film."

"i’ve seen independent films and idk i wasn’t taken in so much unlike this one, i felt i was drawn into the story. so good job!"

"I thought the supporting cast were great. The fight scenes were pretty cool and Paul played his role like a champ. I developed a disgust for his character so he did his job very well."

"I thought it was great, the concept for the film was exciting and fresh."

"Lots of action, great sense of urgency and also lots of great fight scenes! Story was interesting and kept a great pace. I wish it was in IMAX!"

"When I first heard of the movie...... It was explained to me with one word..............Fighting........ Now we all know that fighting is such a diverse word...... So after having fighting pounded in my head...... I sat and I watched............. What did I think? Sensational.... Thrilling.... Intensely interesting....... Overwhelming... Wonderful... To sum it up ..... Amazing."

"Riveting, heartwarming with an inexpected ending."

"I felt that you lived life through the main character’s eyes... The character made you feel the distress and pity for the suffering and misfortune of another, with the desire to alleviate it. Yet you could feel the turmoil inside of him... If you were to ask me what words best describe Will I would say............. Inquisitive....(eager for knowledge of the fight) Compassionate.....(to help). Understanding....(He learned, judged, and made decisions all for the good of the character)."

"This is what I consider the next generation in filmmaking.. People always complain that movies today lack character and story, but through independent filmmaking, the film was allowed to concentrate more on the overall substance and guts of the film, rather than just what “appeals” to the broad, generalized public."

"I definitely look forward to future projects by this director."