Welcome to ADHD’s distant European cousin of the American wannabe gangster film. Welcome to Gangsta: Flush with bright, vivid neon graphics, fast paced action and even faster dialogue, inventive swearing and big beats, this is full on from the word go.
Gangsta comes from the minds and is under the control of Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah, who have a couple of TV Show Snowfall episodes and the upcoming Bad Boys for Life and Beverley Hills Cop 4 on their slate alongside a variety of Belgian language features (Black, Image, Hashtag), it slots nicely into their oeuvre of street and gang life.
The plot here revolves around a tight knit gang of four who have known each other for most of their lives: Junes (Junes Lazaar), Volt (Said Boumazoughe), Badia (Nora Gharib) and Adamo (Matteo Simoni). What makes these guys different and interesting? Well, they’re wannabe gangsta’s and they live their lives like they are already there in this tough, small time area of Belgium in their apartment block. Adamo, a half-Italian, half-Moroccan motormouth, has had a tough upbringing, being an outsider even in this area of outcasts, but he was taken to the hearts of the others in the gang, becoming a family and styling himself as their leader.
Splitting the story up into levels just like the games they played as youngsters and likening them to the 7 deadly sins this rollercoaster ride is taken at breakneck speed as this relatively innocent gang find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into the real world of gangsta’s and dealers and they don’t always like what they find. Working through the deadly sins and relating it to each part of their story is a nice touch: Sloth, Envy, Greed, Lust, Gluttony, Wrath, Pride are all accounted for and play a part in defining the gang’s path to being the gangsta’s that they believe they are destined to be.
But as Adamo utters later in the film: Life is not a video game……
Their small-world lives are altered forever when a business opportunity from Amsterdam, called Orlando Marie (Werner Kolf), comes along that Adamo persuades his Uncle Farid (Noureddine Farihi) to take up, adding cocaine smuggling on top of Farid’s lesser criminal activity. But this is the deal that sets them all down a path of destruction that they are no longer fully in control of.
Finding out that there is a great deal of difference between playing at being a gangsta and actually having to BE a gangsta is a shock to this group. With a great deal of toxic masculinity and bravado being thrown around the screen, the slightest look the wrong way can set these people off and you do get a sense of that tightrope that this gang are walking along at times, never quite sure what they are doing is the right thing. A healthy sprinkling of “fucks & fucking” in the dialogue doesn’t always make it into the subtitles but that doesn’t mean that it’s not there! This may be a Belgian film but it is definitely made with American urban culture in mind with the performances, styles and definitely the music .
Robrecht Heyvaert’s (Revenge and another excellent Belgian film The Ardennes) cinematography is really good the whole way through, choosing great shots to convey the story and to keep up with this fast paced film, never descending into a chaotic mess that would be easy to do with so many pieces and moving parts. The soundtrack put together by Hannes De Maeyer (Professor T) is so apt for this film, a melding of American rap and hip hop with a Belgian style, creating something that is distinctive yet familiar.
The film does go on a little bit too long but it has enough buy in by that point that you don’t mind too much seeing some more of these interesting and larger than life characters. If you like your action fast paced, a little bit ridiculous and looking great with some heavy beats pounding on your ear drums then this is a film for you. Adil and Bilall are ones to keep an eye out for in the future
Originally published on Set the Tape